Greetings, Father Factor readers! My name is D.L. Chandler, a recent addition to the National Fatherhood Initiative staff in the capacity of Web Editor. I joined NFI officially on December 5, and it has been a wonderful experience so far. Everyone on the staff is not only committed to our core mission of increasing the viability and visibility of involved and responsible dads, but it’s such an inviting environment as well.
Originally, I wanted my inaugural blog posting to be a resonating piece that highlighted my joy in being a part of the NFI mission and how I intend to assist in increasing the online reach of our important work. However, I was taken off that that path this weekend after my required reading in joining the staff led me to figures that highlighted the very issues father absence causes – and all the while, my own fatherless childhood memories were being triggered.
24 million children in America, one out of three nationally, are residing in biological father-absent homes. Children who grow up without a father in the home are 54 percent more likely to be poorer than their dads. Teens are at a 30 percent higher risk to abuse drugs and alcohol when dad isn’t present. A study of minority youth ages 10-14 showed that contact with their biological fathers decreased their risk for delinquency, even when dad didn’t live in the home.
As I continued reading the sixth edition of NFI’s Father Facts reference manual, I began to recognize how the numbers and facts related to my own life. After my parents split in the late 70s, I was without the man I admired. I can say with certainty that when my father left the home, my mother, my then-infant brother, and I spiraled into poverty – even becoming homeless for a spell. My father went on to earn a high profile law enforcement position and found other successes while my mother barely kept our lights on.
Growing up as a teen without guidance from dad, I went to the streets to find solace. I dabbled in drugs and drinking and petty crimes – all attempts to feel like I belonged to something. The truth was simple: I wanted my dad to come rescue me. I wanted him to eliminate the pain by simply showing up. I hoped that my behavior would inspire him to pay some attention to me. Sadly, it never worked. I did have a man in my life that fulfilled the father role I sorely needed – my grandfather. Without his firm talks and loving guidance, I would have been lost to crime or worse.
In my further reading of NFI’s Pop’s Culture fathering attitudes survey, I learned that ninety-one percent of the respondents agreed that father absence is a national crisis. I know firsthand that father absence has had a detrimental impact on my own life. The question remains then is how do we make father absence a larger conversation for dads across the board.
If you need any motivation to embrace the importance of eliminating father absence, just look at the numbers. The data alone suggests that something must be done to bridge the gap between fathers and their children. But for me, I’m solely motivated by my own past and I feel encouraged that together we can turn the numbers around in favor of dads being presently involved with their children.