The Disappearance of America’s Dads
“It’s time we reclaim our children’s fathers and daddies.”
Is the role of “Dad” a dead one in America?
The practice of being a good father and daddy to children is quickly vanishing in our nation. Far too many children in are being raised in homes without a father figure to guide them, to raise them, and to love them. Children whose dads are absent while they are in childhood suffer from a number of challenges, and as a result, our nation and society suffer, as well. As an adoptive and foster father, I see this lack of dad for the children who come to me time after time, and it is often one of the main reasons the children have been placed into foster care. So many of these Daddies and Fathers of these children simply do not care or love them enough to be in their lives. Drug usage, jail or prison time, neglect, abandonment; these are just some of the reasons why dads might ignore their responsibility to be a Father.
It needs to change.
The amount of children in the U.S. who are not living with their fathers has more than doubled in the last fifty years. Indeed, 1 in 3 kids in America live in a home without their father present. Countless research will tell you that our kids are at great risk without strong, present, loving dads in their lives. Many children of these children grow to have low self-esteem, believing they may be at fault that their father is not with them, or even feel that they are the cause of the lack of daddy at home. Along with this, boys are more likely to suffer from negative behaviors, and are unsure how to form a respectful and loving relationship or bond with others of the opposite sex. Tragically, girls who grow up with no father in the house are at greater risk of losing their virginity while young, and engage in sexual behavior that is both risky and dangerous.
“ Far too many children in are being raised in homes without a father figure to guide them, to raise them, and to love them.”
During my 15 years plus experience as a foster father, I have had over four dozen children come to live in my home. One thing I have learned while taking care of these children in need is that, above all, these children simply wish to be loved in a healthy and safe manner, loved unconditionally for who they are. Many children in foster care will try to resist this love, and tragically even try to sabotage it in some way. To be sure, there are those children who are difficult, who are challenging, and who are exhausting. Yet, each deserves to be loved unconditionally for who they are. As a foster, adoptive, biological parent, and as a Daddy to all of these children, this is one of my greatest responsibilities.
So many of the children who come to live with my family are from homes where there is no father in their lives. Just now, I have had three small children placed in my home, ages 1, 2, and 4. Their mother is in jail for abandonment and neglect. When I asked about the father, enquiring if he might be able to take the children, I was not surprised to hear that there was no “father in the picture”, and that each child has a different father; a refrain I hear countless times about the children who come to be a part of my family. Another set of boys, ages 7, 8, and 10, all traveled each week two hours each way, simply to spend an hour with the father, who was in jail. Still another set of children who were placed with me had a father who beat their mother in front of them on a daily basis. And then there is the young girl who came to live with my wife and me whose father was a registered sexual predator, as he had raped his own daughter repeatedly. As you can imagine, these children all suffered from intense emotional traumas and challenges.
Along with this, there may be those foster children who have had poor examples of fatherhood in their lives, resulting in poor examples of so called “manliness.” There are those who may believe that a real man does not express love, does not state that he loves someone, or even grant a hug to another under the misguided belief of weakness. For the child who may have been abused, beaten, or neglected, this type of unconditional love is most important. Without this type of fatherly love, a child will not form necessary and healthy attachment with others, resulting in a number of attachment disorders. As anyone who has worked with foster children will tell you, most foster children face an enormous amount of emotional issues, many times stemming from the lack of healthy love.
So many children in our nation without strong male role models. So many children in our country with absent fathers. It’s time to change that. It’s time for our churches, schools, politicians, and our society to begin taking a stronger stand on this issue. It’s time that we all begin to encourage the fathers in our nation to take their roles responsibly. It’s time we reclaim our children’s fathers and daddies.
Dr. John DeGarmo is an international expert in parenting and foster care and is a TEDx speaker. Dr. John has been a foster parent for 17 years, and he and his wife have had over 60 children come through their home. He is an international consultant to legal firms and foster care agencies, as well as an empowerment and transformational speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system. He is the author of several books, including Love and Mayhem: One Big Family’s Uplifting Story of Fostering and Adoption and writes for several publications. Dr. John has appeared on CNN HLN, Good Morning, America, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS, and elsewhere, He and his wife have received many awards, including the Good Morning America Ultimate Hero Award. He can be contacted at drjohndegarmo@gmail, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo, or at The Foster Care Institute.