One of the scariest bits of information to be cited at IWF’s panel “Hurricane Katrina and the Roots of Poverty” (scroll down) is that the number of fatherless families across the board is today what it was in African American families when Daniel Patrick Moynihan proclaimed the black family in disarray.

“For the first time in history,” writes Leah Ward Sears in today’s Washington Post, “less than half of U.S. households are headed by married couples. And on Sept. 29, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that almost 36 percent of all births are the result of unmarried childbearing, the highest percentage ever recorded.

“In family law, as in the rest of American society, there is an intensifying debate about how we should respond to this kind of news. Should law and society actively seek new ways to support marriage? Or should family law strive to be marriage-neutral by providing more rights and benefits to its alternatives, such as cohabitation and single parenthood?”

As a justice on the Supreme Court of Georgia, Sears sees the results of single family parent families:

“Why are state judges such as myself so concerned about strengthening marriage?,” she asks. “Start with the basics: Fragmenting families are flooding our court dockets. Since I became a trial judge in 1989, the percentage of domestic relations cases has risen sharply; they now account for 65 percent of all cases in Georgia at the Superior Court level. Last year more than 14,000 children were in the care of the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, and nearly 24,000 were admitted to a youth detention center. One out of every four Georgia children under 18 has a case with the Office of Child Support Enforcement.”