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His wife rushed to him from around the car, crying, “‘Are you OK?’ And it was interesting because I looked down at the little guy, and he was sound asleep,” said Mr. Warren.

“For me, that became a metaphor for why this issue [of father involvement] is so incredibly important. Because that’s what fathers are supposed to do: They’re supposed to take the hits, take the pain and all that stuff, and make sure that … your little guy, your little girl is still asleep.”

Today, it’s like there are millions of babies “in the air” and “they’re taking the full hit” if they don’t have a father to catch them or protect them, Mr. Warren told the briefing, which was held to release 40 recommendations from the Commission on Paternal Involvement in Pregnancy Outcomes, a project of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

“Every child has an involved father at conception,” Mr. Warren said. The question is, “will he have an involved father at graduation?”

There’s a lot more to do to help men, especially blacks, avoid juvenile delinquency, finish school and stay out of jail. And the solutions lay in “knowing that it all start*, way back at the beginning,” Rep. Danny K. Davis, Illinois Democrat, told those in attendance at the briefing.

Speaking personally, he added that “I’m so glad my folks were married … sometimes, I just thank God.”

Neither of his parents finished high school, he said, “but I can tell you, they had something going on that made me and my nine brothers and sister feel like we were top of the line, that we were cream of the crop.”

Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at