Dads, get in the game

Dads, get in the game

June 17th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

Millions of Americans are celebrating Father's Day in honor of the men who helped raise them and provide for them -- even if not always perfectly.

But we got a reminder recently of the numerous children in this area alone who are denied the blessings of a father in their households.

An article in the Times Free Press told of the almost total absence of fathers in families in public housing facilities run by the Chattanooga Housing Authority.

That reality is tragic but not surprising.

It may be deemed insensitive these days to say it, but study after study has linked child poverty to single-parent homes. Looking at the depressing statistics in a 2010 study, Robert Rector, a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation, noted that single parents head more than 70 percent of poor families who have children. And single parents themselves are about six times more apt to live in poverty than married couples.

More often than not, single-parent homes are headed by mothers -- all too many of whom were never married to the fathers of their children.

"Marriage," Rector concluded, "remains America's strongest anti-poverty weapon, yet it continues to decline. As husbands disappear from the home, poverty and welfare dependence will increase, and children and parents will suffer as a result."

That makes the statistics on absent fathers in local public housing even more heartbreaking.

"Of the nearly 2,900 families who live in Chattanooga Housing Authority public housing sites, only 32 have fathers listed on the lease," Yolanda Putman reported in the Times Free Press.

So hundreds, if not thousands, of children in public housing units in the area are growing up in large measure without the strong, loving presence and sense of security that an intact, two-parent family can provide. That means more juvenile delinquency, more teen pregnancy, reduced high school and college graduation rates and a series of other problems that will make their lives so much tougher than they need to be.

As a society, we are paying an enormous price for the breakdown of the family. And a great deal of that breakdown can be traced directly to the abdication of responsibility by millions of fathers to care for the children they helped produce.

They have not earned honor and respect on Father's Day, and the idea behind such a holiday may be downright alien to their abandoned children.

Tennessee-born singer and actress Dolly Parton has remarked that not everyone grew up in a loving, stable family, and that those of us who did should be grateful for it.

We should indeed.

But we mourn, nonetheless, those who needlessly have been refused such a family.