Daddy, Come Home

Ask a typical government bureaucrat what the problems facing our nation are, and you're likely to hear a lot of abstract talk about economic trends and trade deficits. But ask Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis Sullivan and he'll tell you that the greatest challenge of our generation is the flight of men from family life. Since the 1960s, America has seen a staggering increase in broken families. Liberal social scientists don't like to use phrases like "broken families"; they glibly describe them in neutral terms like "new family forms" and "single-parent homes." But in the eyes of a child, what's almost always happening is the loss of a father. Statistics show that the results of that loss are devastating. While the national poverty rate is 6 percent, the poverty rate for female-headed households is 30 percent. And among black female-headed households, it jumps to 50 percent. The blunt fact is that poverty is not going to be eradicated from our black communities so long as nearly 70 percent of black children are born out of wedlock. And with no-fault divorce, poverty is rapidly making inroads into the middle class as well. Half of all new welfare recipients are recently divorced women and their children. Today, the most reliable indicator of whether a child is poor is whether or not he lives in an intact family. But a missing father means much more than a missing paycheck. A father's love and discipline are crucial to character formation. And for children growing up without that love, the statistics are grim. Fatherless children display more anti-social behavior, do worse in school, and are twice as likely to drop out than children from intact families. They are more likely to use drugs and become sexually active at an early age. More than half the teenagers who've attempted suicide live in single-parent homes. Most children who run away from home are leaving fatherless homes. And approximately 70 percent of juveniles who end up in long-term correctional facilities grew up without a father at home. Even health rates are affected. A recent study by the Department of Health and Human Services found that after controlling for age, sex, race, and socioeconomic status, children from broken families are 20 to 40 times more likely to suffer health problems than children living with both parents. The statistics are overwhelming. Our nation can no longer afford to be morally neutral about family forms. For the sake of our children, we must begin to design social policies that support and encourage intact families. Which is to say, we need programs that encourage men to take their family responsibilities more seriously. Most of our national dialogue on family issues, most of our parenting classes, most of our social supports for parents focus on mothers. But it is not women who are abandoning or neglecting their children, says Secretary Sullivan. It is men. It is time to shift our attention to the issue of male responsibility and the indispensable role fathers play in family life. There's a reason God created the family the way He did. Children need fathers as well as mothers in order to thrive. And even more important, in order to learn to trust God as their heavenly Father.


Chuck Colson


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