So what can be done about the fatherless families in our country? When I was in Cleveland, I met people who were working on the problem in their communities, The City Mission has programs that train men on what it means to be a father. Other organizations do the same thing. But it is an uphill battle.
A big part of the problem is that marriage is seen as unnecessary to having children Today, the overall rate of children are born to single moms is 41%. The number rises to 53% of single woman who are under 30 who are having children outside of marriage. And that does not include children born to those who are not married, but cohabiting. When you look at the African-American population, the percentage rises to 73%. That means that between 41% and 73% of children born today are starting out without a father.
In the April issue of “Christianity Today,” they reported on what Donald Stern, an older white medical doctor, who became the public health director in Richmond, Virginia, found. Richmond is a city that was experiencing what Stern called the Richmond Fatherless Epidemic. He defined it as a public health crisis. In Richmond, every health status indicator was worse than the state’s average. Four factors were twice as high as the state average; teen pregnancy, infant mortality, out-of-wedlock births, and std infections. He figured out that the cost to the taxpayers for these problems was $205 million!
In 2007 in Richmond, 65% of children were born to single moms; the rate was 84% in the African-American community ion Richmond. The national average for that year was 40% of kids were born to single moms.
Not wiling to sit and simply study the statistics, Stern, along with others, set up the Richmond Family and Fatherhood Initiative with the stated goal of decreasing the non-marital birth rate, reconnecting fathers to their children, and encouraging strong two–parent families.
For example, they found that when men were incarcerated, their connection with their children was broken and often never repaired. So a volunteer set up a TV camera and videotaped children talking to their father, and then took the tape to the prison to show the father. Another volunteer started working with 9th graders to talk to them about healthy relationships and “character development.”
Another group, First Things First Richmond, met with incarcerated men to encourage them to “man up” and return to their families when released. Many of these programs have been started by concerned individuals, and it’s not clear yet what the results will be. But last year (2011), Richmond had the lowest teen pregnancy rate in over 20 years. The abortion rate also fell. Looks like they are on to something!
Question: What do you think can be done to encourage fathers to be fathers?