We Need Dads

June 19, 2020
Weekly Column

I knew becoming a parent would be an incredible moment, but I’m not sure one can ever be fully prepared to become a father. There are responsibilities not only to help with homework and make sure kids get to their ball games, but the more important responsibilities – like raising great men and women. 

I’m far from a perfect father. I lose my temper too often. I can be preoccupied with work. I embarrass my sons with my old-fashioned jokes and behavior. But, for all my weaknesses as a father, I am still present in the lives of my sons. That makes a big difference.  

According to a 2019 Census report, 20.2% of American dads, or approximately 7 million, are “absent” dads – meaning these men play no significant role in the lives of their minor children. This leaves nearly 20 million children without dads in the home. 

Data shows these kids, through no fault of their own, are 400% more likely to live in poverty and they are 200% more likely to drop out of high school. We all know the statistics. Dropping out of high school means that individual will earn, on average, half of a what a technical school or college graduate earns. 

I know there are many issues that can complicate the efforts of fathers to be involved in the lives of their children. Sometimes courts, the other parent, substance abuse, or behavioral health issues make it difficult or perhaps impossible. But fathers matter, and the data makes it clear that we need to do better.

So what can we do to fix this systemic problem? We need to expect more from fathers, and we should encourage them to be active in the lives of their children, and in the workplace. We should require able-bodied men on welfare to have a job or participate in educational and training opportunities to receive benefits. We should make sure we are rallying around our friends and family who may find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy. We can step in and help fill the role of fathers, as best as we can, for children who have been targets of domestic abuse or violence. We can participate in mentorship programs in our communities. We can also celebrate the great fathers in our lives and remember the fathers who are no longer with us – because it certainly isn’t an easy job.

Thinking about my young sons becoming fathers later in life makes my responsibility of raising them to be good humans even greater – and Father’s Day serves as a good reminder. I hope you and your families enjoy this Father’s Day and use the day to remember the roles each one of us play in helping shape the next generation of fathers.