The Best Job Program

Charles Ballard had no intention of ever becoming a father. He grew up without a father himself in a poor, black neighborhood—and his goal in life was having a good time. By his early twenties Ballard had fathered a child, had abandoned both baby and mother, and was serving time in prison. But today this same man is a role model for thousands of young men—who are just like he once was. The turning point came during his time behind bars. There he met a preacher, a former convict himself, who introduced him to the Gospel. "I asked God to be my father," Ballard says. "I came to see myself as He sees me—as His beloved son." Today Ballard brings that same message to estranged young black men through the National Institute for Responsible Fatherhood. His main strategy is teaching the men to be real fathers to their children. The results have been astounding. Nearly 100 percent of the men participating in the program have gone to court to claim paternity for their children. Nearly all have accepted financial responsibility as well. We don't start by requiring a man to take a job, Ballard explains. Instead we communicate a sense of how important he is to his child. That—more than anything else—motivates men to stay off drugs, go back to school, get a job. As Ballard puts it, "The most important job-creation program is to re-instill the love of the father for his child." A father's contribution goes far beyond financial support. Children desperately need a father's unique quality of love and guidance. That used to be considered obvious. In fact, in America right up to the Civil War, advice manuals for parents on how to raise children were addressed primarily to fathers, not mothers. Fathers bore the primary responsibility for their children's intellectual and spiritual education. They also trained them in practical skills, working side by side in home industries. But the Industrial Revolution changed all that. It transferred work from homesteads to offices and factories—and fathers followed their work out of the home. Eventually they simply were not spending enough time with their children to act as the primary parent any longer. The most striking feature of nineteenth-century child-rearing manuals is that fathers became virtually invisible. For the first time in American history, books for parents began to address exclusively mothers. Fathers were demoted to secondary status. And as fatherhood lost status, men lost interest in being fathers. Today father absence has become a major social problem. In many inner cities, the rate of fatherless families tops 80 percent; it's the principal cause of much of the crime and social disorder in the ghettos. The solution to the flight from fatherhood is not just another social program. The only lasting solution is a conversion that draws men back to the heavenly Father—as Charles Ballard discovered in prison. We need to help men discover that God Himself is our Father—so they in turn can be real fathers to their children.


Chuck Colson


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