Can Dads Help Prevent Poverty?

The following article was written by Dr. Ken Canfield of the National Center for Fathering” in his weekly newsletter. If you’re a father I wholeheartedly recommend subscribing — not only does he provide thought-provoking articles but also practical tips and ideas for dads.

Washington Post columnist William Raspberry has written about fathers for more than a decade. In his column from Monday, “Poverty and the Father Factor,” he insightfully links fatherlessness, poverty, non-marriage, and fragmented communities as the culprits which are marginalizing the forthcoming generation. Although Raspberry’s data is drawn from African-American demographics, he notes, “The phenomenon obviously does not apply to all black families, nor is it restricted to black families.” He cites the 2000 census, which showed that only 69% of all American children were born into two-parent households–65% for Hispanics and 77% for whites–and only 38% of African-American households were headed by married couples.

Raspberry concludes with a call to community institutions, religious and civic groups, to help strengthen families. However, we cannot depend on the community alone. He reminds dads that the oft-repeated proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” is not the silver bullet. “Unfortunately, African proverbs don’t raise children. People do.”

One of Raspberry’s colleagues in advocating for fathers and families is Charles Ballard of the National Institute for Responsible Fatherhood. Ballard believes that, woven together in the poverty picture, is what he calls “emotional poverty,” as I mentioned in a previous weekly. He defines emotional poverty as a feeling of abandonment–a lack of resources in terms of relationship.

Many children long for a close relationship with their dads, but some fathers, for any number of reasons, do not make their children a high priority. If a father fails to meet his children’s needs, leaving them in emotional poverty, it often arrests their growth and leaves them struggling with their identity and purpose. However, if a father recognizes his failure, becomes vulnerable and admits that he was wrong, then commits to do whatever it takes to make things better, his children can be lifted from emotional poverty to wealth. Emotional poverty can strike any family. When we’ve done something that has hurt a child or made him feel left out, we need to sit him down, ask for forgiveness, and share how we intend to do better in the future.

This gives one a lot to think about. What can we as businessmen, church leaders, and fathers do to reach out to other men and kids without a male role model? If you’re interested in learning more about this question, please read the Father Five: Reversing the Generational Spiral from Pat Morely & David Delk (Man in the Mirror).

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