We know from U.S. census reports that 1 in 2 children in the United States will live in a single-parent home before reaching age 18. About 84 percent of those custodial parents are mothers – and 27.7 percent of those mothers, along with their children, are living in poverty.
So, where are the fathers?
At Methodist Home for Children, we work with all sorts of families – families headed by one parent, two parents, grandparents, adoptive parents, even siblings. We want to make these families stronger for the children involved, and we understand clearly that fathers have a powerful role to play. That’s why MHC is a co-organizer and sponsor of the Family Resource Center’s N.C. Fatherhood Conference in Raleigh. In its fourth year, the conference Saturday offers workshops, training and speakers to help fathers build an ongoing, active role in the lives of their children.
Experience has shown us that good things happen when a father is involved. Emerging research bears this out.
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▪ Children do better in school: They go to school with higher levels of academic readiness, and they’re better able to handle stresses and frustrations. As adolescents, they have better verbal skills, intellectual functioning and academic achievement.
▪ Children are less likely to experience depression, to exhibit disruptive behavior or to lie. Boys have fewer school behavior problems, and girls have stronger self-esteem.
▪ Teens are less likely to become court-involved. Even after adjusting for income, youths in father-absent families have significantly higher odds of incarceration than those in mother-father families. Youths who never had a father in the home experienced the highest odds.
As a father, I take a special delight in knowing that my children, ages 29 and 26, have grown to be productive citizens. They are motivated, self-confident and loving adults. By being present in their lives, I have personally attached these attributes to them and helped shape their paths. But they know, too, that my love and commitment would be no less had their lives taken a different, more difficult path.
I want this for all fathers and their children.
At the conference, men can learn and practice parenting techniques that they take back to their home communities to share with others.
Every year, these fathers return to the N.C. Fatherhood Conference and tell stories about their children and the ways their own lives are enriched through new relationships with their kids. They understand their importance as parents. They know that their presence is critical to their children’s future successes. These fathers know that they play an important role in the development of healthy adults, and it starts with them.
Ken Perry of Raleigh is vice president of operations at Methodist Home for Children and co-chair of the N.C. Fatherhood Conference
If you go
Find info about the N.C. Fatherhood Conference at frcfatherhoodconference.org.