Dr. Randy Leite, dean of the College of Health Sciences and Professions (CHSP), is an expert on family dynamics, the role of fatherhood, child custody and the effects of public policy on families. The latter is one of the most misunderstood, but has the most impact on families, he notes.
Leite’s interest in the study of father involvement has developed from a changing national demographic that indicates nearly half of all children today are born to unmarried mothers, and more than half of all children are growing up without their father residing in the home.
“The impacts of positive father involvement on many child well-being outcomes have been well-documented,” Leite says. “I believe it is important to understand those factors that may discourage or limit such involvement.”
Leite’s interest in fatherhood is also reflected in his appointment by Gov. Ted Strickland and reappointment by Gov. John Kasich to serve as a member of the Ohio Fatherhood Commission, where he works with other commissioners to enhance support for positive fathering across Ohio. To that end, Leite is also spearheading the University’s participation in a $400,000 federally funded project for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services focused on keeping both parents actively involved in their child’s life when the parents do not live together.
The four-year project, Parenting Time Opportunities for Children to the 12 th power (PTOC12), encompasses 12 Ohio counties and includes an array of family support agencies, judicial officials and policy experts involved in parental visitation matters, also known as parenting time. Ohio University’s role in the project focuses on the role of fatherhood in a child’s life, particularly among unmarried fathers. The study is also unique in that it focuses on visitation orders of never married parents, rather than divorced parents.
“Our involvement will be to evaluate the project in the 12 counties involved by comparing outcomes of a child's well-being,” Leite said.
Leite and other CHSP faculty and student researchers are measuring whether the PTOC12 project achieves its goals through factors such as the number of parenting time orders established, the financial costs of these cases, and the rates of child support payments associated with the orders that are established.
The project aligns with Leite's goal of establishing an Institute for Fathers and Families within his college, in partnership with the Ohio Practitioners Network for Fathers and Families. He envisions an institute that improves the well-being of children and families by creating better understanding among policymakers and practitioners about how to enhance father involvement with children. The institute would work toward that overall goal by conducting independent research designed to shape policies and programs.
As dean, Dr. Leite has actively led the transformation of the College of Health Sciences and Professions through a complete academic reorganization and a period of dramatic growth that has positioned the college as the largest such unit at the University. As a result, leadership of transformational change has become an area of primary interest and continued exploration.
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