Did you know that 23 million children, 1 out of 3, live without a biological father in the home?
That's a LOT of kids without dads.
So then we have to ask ourselves, does it matter? Will not having a father in the home really make a difference? Research shows that when a child is raised in a father-absent home the child is seven times more likely to become pregnant as a teen, more likely to have behavioral problems, more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, and twice as likely to drop out of high school (Source: National Fatherhood Initiative). So yes, it matters. Kids clearly need Dad to be around. Not just "around" either, but a dad who takes an active role in parenting and providing.
So, what do we do?
Often our first response is anger, and it’s usually directed at the absent father. Where did he go? How many kids does he have? Why isn't he caring for them? We have an image of a callous young man disappearing as soon as responsibility comes knocking on his door.
Maybe some of the time that's correct. There are certainly people of all ages and genders who are looking to pass their responsibility off to whomever will take it. However, I don't believe that most young men fit into this category. So why do they disappear? Where do they go?
Throughout the years here at Alpha Omega Center, I have had the chance to interact with many young men. Our focus is primarily on the moms and children, but we encourage dads to come along to appointments. Since my personality is quite direct, I would often challenge these young men. Are you going to stick around? Are you going to support her and this baby? What's your plan?
Sometimes they would assert that yes they're in it for the long haul. Most of the time though, they would start to hem and haw. Again, I'm not shy, I would press until they came up with an answer.
They're not needed.
Yup. That's it. Why would a kid need them? What could they do? I mean sure, they could work, but what if they lose their job? What then? The general idea is that fathers are kind of like an appendix. It doesn't really do much of anything and if it starts to bother you just take it out; you won't even notice.
Why do they think this? Well, many of them didn't have a father in their life. Some of them didn't have any type of strong male role model. They really just don't know exactly what to do. Worse, when the baby's mother starts to get her act together and begins to grow up (often quickly) the guy finds himself left in the dust. She used to be fun, used to want to do things with him, and now she obsessed with bills, daycare, income, and stability. So, like all young couples, they start to fight and disagree. Unfortunately, she often has the same belief he does and eventually decides she's better off without him. The cycle continues.
Here at Alpha Omega Center we're going to do something about this. We're going to start specifically reaching out to the young dads who come into our program. No, not as an appendage to the mom, but as their own person. We're recruiting older men, retired dads who have successfully raised their own children and are now enjoying their grandchildren to meet with these dads and mentor them.
Our goal is to meet these dads where they are, introduce them to Christ, and teach them about fatherhood. We will not only teach them, but be there for them in a very real and personal way. We'll be a lifeline they can call when they're just not sure what to do, someone they can lean on when they're not sure how to respond. We'll encourage them to attend church, get a job, finish school, and step up to the plate for their young family.
We need less fatherless kids in our community and more young men ready to step into the important role of dad, and hopefully husband. Please pray with us that we can reach the men who need us and be a force for change in their lives.
We can work to end this fatherhood crisis in our community, and it starts with a few good men working to reach those who are often forgotten - young fathers.