TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill supporting Florida fathers while at the Buccaneers indoor practice facility on Monday morning.

DeSantis signed HB 7065 – the child welfare law, which he said would charge the Department of Children and Families to create an awareness campaign on the importance of responsible fathers.

Growing up without a dad has proven to increase a child’s chances of dropping out of school or ending up in trouble with the law.

During the signing of the bill, Gov. DeSantis said 90 percent of homeless and runaway children did not have a father in their home, 70 percent of high school dropouts did not have a father in their home and 60 percent of youth who’ve taken their own lives did not have a father in their home.

“The fact of the matter is, when you take kids that do not have a father present during their upbringing, the chance of them dropping out of school getting involved in trouble with the law or having other difficulties increases dramatically,” said DeSantis.

Gov. DeSantis also said the bill would allow for nonprofit grants to help fathers stay engaged with their children through evidence-based education. This would also include creating case managers to help the father transition from unemployment and incarceration, according to the governor.

Mark Merrill is the president of Family First, an organization created by former Bucs Head Coach Tony Dungy. Merill runs a program called ‘All Pro Dad‘ which helps fathers become more active in their child’s lives.

“What we found is the approach of bringing dad and children’s father figures mentors and children together is really important and what a better place to do that then in our schools,” said Merrill.

Family First has the same goals as the Child Welfare Law.

“It’s not just another government handout, rather is giving hand up to organizations in the state by statewide and local organizations to really get on the strength, fortitude and the power to do what is best in their sphere of influence in each of the local communities,” he said.

About $70 million will go to the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Department of Children and Families. It aims to help put a focus on supporting and creating mentorship programs at DJJ for at-risk youth. DCF will create a statewide awareness campaign calling attention to responsible fatherhood. It will also support nonprofit organizations, like Family First. 

“It will allow us an air attack make war on his father was issue and also a ground attack,” said Merill.

DeSantis said the state is doing everything it can to equip fathers with the right tools.

“We’ve shown our commitment, the state of Florida to any dad out there who may not be engaged we want to be able to support we’ve got programs community groups and nonprofits that want to be there to help so we’re putting our money where our mouth is here showing the importance of this but you’ve got to be willing to do the right thing and be present in your child’s life

The law now takes effect on July 1, 2022.