Where Are The Dads on Father’s Day?

For more than a decade I was Senior Vice President at a nonprofit that made seed grants to startup organizations. Our grantees were trying to solve some of the toughest societal problems like domestic violence, gangs, broken families, hunger, and homelessness. Each year we received hundreds of proposals but because of our modest size, we could only fund about 20-30% of those requesting help.

One day I was feeling the negative effects after having read dozens of difficult proposals. Suddenly, I stood up at my desk and said, “Where are the dads?” In these proposals there were endless examples of how broken our society is (sex trafficking, fatherlessness, abuse, etc.). I could only find a few examples where dads were actually present, and frankly in those situations, they may have been better off without those particular dads.

Father’s Day for me contains wide-ranging emotions. I love my kids and the cards and conversations with them, but there is also the state of fatherlessness in our country that contributes to many of the worst societal issues being played out today.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that an estimated 24.7 million children (33%) live absent their biological father. Millions more have dads who are physically present, but emotionally absent. If this were classified as a disease, fatherlessness would be a pandemic worthy of attention as a national emergency. The following research statistics reveal the dramatic increased risk to children when the father is absent:

  • 71% – High school dropouts
  • 71% – Teen pregnancies
  • 85% – Children with behavioral disorders
  • 90% – Homeless and runaway children
  • 100% – Prison population (Prisons are basically holding facilities for males without dads.)
  • Suicide rates in unemployed males is 2x of those with jobs
  • Prison population increased 700% between 1973-2013. – 93% are male
  • U.S. has highest rate of overweight males among all major countries
  • High school boys academically underperform girls (MRS) in almost every area of the U.S
  • 26% drop in earning power of males with only high school diploma (previous 40 years)
  • Male “detachment” creates an empathy gap

These stats have been widely known for decades, and yet the fatherless rate continues to climb. The impact of fatherlessness is evident in the home, schools, health and in prisons. In short, fatherlessness is associated with almost every societal ill facing our country.

Well, that’s a real feel good story, isn’t it? Of course not! But what will we do? What will you do? Raising a boy to be a man is too important to leave to chance. And it’s never too late to take the first step in the right direction.

Take this Father’s Day opportunity to connect with your family. Turn off the phone, take a walk, cook your favorite meal together, play a game…don’t give a present. JUST BE PRESENT! Make this the best Father’s Day ever.

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This blog is an edited excerpt from Tender Lions: Building the Vital Relationship Between Father and Son

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