- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 6, 2009

A few years ago, the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) surveyed about 700 dads about their lives.

Last week, NFI came out with a survey from 1,500 moms, and compared notes.

It turns out that both moms and dads agree that America has a “father absence” crisis.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the solution.

When asked if “there’s no involved father in the home,” can a mother can be just as effective in preparing a child to be a well-adjusted and productive adult, more than half the dads (53 percent) said yes.

That’s not the best answer, guys.

When moms were asked a similar question, 55 percent of them said yes, too. Insert big sigh here.

Almost as bad, when dads and moms were asked if there wasn’t an involved father around, could a male role model, such as a teacher or family friend, be an “adequate substitute” for a father, even higher numbers said yes — 57 percent of men, 68 percent of women.

In other words, a large number of moms and dads can see how a father can be replaced by (a) the mother or (b) another male.

I understand pragmatism. I understand that sometimes someone has got to go.

But when half the parenting population thinks a child’s father is replaceable, we are in dire straits.

Why? Well, I don’t see people rushing to say that mothers are replaceable. Why devalue the fathers?

Hundreds of interviews over the years have shown me that from the children’s point of view, neither parent is fully replaceable.

Maybe that sounds a little lofty, so let me explain.

I have often talked to children in foster care and been quietly stunned to see their unwavering devotion to their parents. All the adults in the child-welfare system may have concluded — with good reason — that a mom is no good, but the children will still hunger for the day when they could return home to her. I’ve seen that same longing for fathers too, even if they are behind bars.

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