Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bring Dads Back into the Family Children Who Grow Up without Fathers Desperately Need Male Role Models

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bring Dads Back into the Family Children Who Grow Up without Fathers Desperately Need Male Role Models

Article excerpt

WE face a crisis in this nation. It's a crisis that doesn't appear in many headlines, but rest assured it's gnawing away at our nation's moral fabric. It's the absence of fathers in the family.

Consider these statistics. A recent study by the National Center for Health Statistics reported that 1 in 3 children is born out of wedlock.

Children in fatherless homes are five times more likely to live in poverty and twice as likely to drop out of high school. Fatherless girls are three times more likely to become unwed teenage mothers. Fatherless boys are much more likely to end up behind bars. We have created, in the words of author David Blankenhorn, an underclass of "more boys with guns ... more girls with babies."

Government alone cannot reverse this crisis. We must fundamentally change our culture. We have to work through not just the churches and the temples, not just through volunteer organizations like Big Brothers of America, but through an entire range of mentoring services that unite needy boys and girls with strong male role models.

First-ever fathers summit

Government can play a role first by raising public awareness. On June 13 in Burbank, Calif., I convened the first-ever Focus on Fathers Summit to discuss this crisis and possible remedies.

What we discovered were several areas that deserve immediate attention.

First, we must reverse the skyrocketing unwed teenage pregnancy that is properly in the forefront of everyone's concerns. The stigma of out-of-wedlock pregnancy has all but disappeared from our society. We must change welfare laws so that they stop encouraging teenage girls to set up their own households.

Most teenagers simply aren't prepared to be good parents. They would do better to wait, however sincere their love for their child.

One of the most disturbing things about the exploding number of teen pregnancies is that so many of the fathers are not minors. They are adults - typically, men in their 20s - having sex with 14-year-old girls. That's wrong, and we must enforce the statutory rape laws to prohibit it.

A second area of agreement at our summit was the need to change laws to encourage marriage and thereby strengthen families.

While we clearly don't want anyone to stay in an abusive relationship, because of its destructive effects on the family, we must recognize that the best environment in which to raise children is in a loving home with a mother and a father.

A 'wedfare' initiative

In California, we've taken a step in that direction through our "wedfare" initiative, which provides transitional welfare benefits to welfare mothers who marry, reversing a policy that previously had punished single mothers by automatically canceling their benefits once they found a husband.

We must continue reforming welfare to promote work and self-sufficiency because work plays a central role not just in providing financial support, but in teaching our children the values that they need to succeed in life. …

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