Thumbs up to dads for playing bigger role in raising America's kids

Encouraging trend

Recent research found that most American fathers say they are heavily involved in hands-on parenting. The national survey showed a slight increase in fathers' involvement since the government started asking about it in 2002.

The results are encouraging and important ''because others have found the more involved dads are, the better the outcomes for their children,'' said researcher Jo Jones, The Associated Press reported. Jones, co-author of the report, is with the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More academic success, fewer behavior problems and healthier eating habits are just some of the ways a father's involvement has been linked with children's well-being, according to the AP.

Key findings among fathers living with children younger than 5, included the fact that nine in 10 bathed, diapered, helped them use the toilet or get dressed at least several times a week. Almost two out of three read to them at least several times weekly.

From our observations, it's not just the kids who benefit from those interactions.

Belt tightening

To the drop in funding for Mid-Columbia Meals on Wheels.

State and federal money for 2014 is down $65,000 from this year's amount. Donations are helping fill the gap. Kennewick First United Methodist Church has pledged $10,000, but more help is needed.

Funding is down but the need isn't. Last year, the program provided more than 147,000 meals, and this year the number is expected to total about 155,000.

Meals on Wheels delivers nutritious meals to homebound clients -- mostly seniors -- and operates seven dining centers in the Tri-City area.

If the financial gap can't be bridged, the dining centers will close one day a month next year and the home delivered meal service also will stop on that day, program director Marcee Woffinden said.

The program is improving the physical health of seniors through better nutrition.

For many, coming to the dining center also means conversation and social interaction.

"To be able to have lunch with people and talk with them instead of listening to the TV and talking to yourself -- that's why I came down here," 89-year-old Phyllis Castleberry told Herald reporter Sara Schilling.

For some seniors, the Meals on Wheels driver may provide their only human contact on that day.

The program "is a lifeline for quite a few people," explained Bill McMillan, one of the Pasco center's clients.

Meals on Wheels is a vital community service. It ought to expand, not contract.