Missing dads is a problem not only in poor homes
The inner cities, where only 1 in 10 black children live with both parents, and the wealthy suburbs, where many fathers spend more than 60 hours a week on the job, have more in common than meets the eye, family advocates and faith leaders said.
They made the comments Thursday after The Washington Times published an analysis this week of U.S. census data that provoked concern for children from widely disparate camps.
Welfare policies among the poor have put government in the role of the father and equated fatherhood with a monthly check, said Glenn T. Stanton, director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs. This has left many fathers free to walk away from their children knowing they will not starve thanks to programs that provide cash assistance to single mothers in proportion with the number of children they have, he said.
For fathers who are physically present, it sends a message that a few hundred dollars is a sufficient role.
“I think it would be difficult to overstate the significance of a welfare check replacing a marriage,” though a committed relationship between a man and a woman — even if the man provides only the same modest income that welfare payments would — “rivals maybe a college education as a path” to upward mobility, Mr. Stanton said.
But if single mothers on welfare are married to the government, others said, the frantic and competitive lives of many men in the upper-middle class have wedded them to their jobs and relegated fatherhood to a role more centered on financial support than emotional guidance.
“I don’t strictly believe it’s an inner-city deal,” said Hugh Cunningham, pastor of the Sojourn Church in the Dallas suburbs. “A lot of suburban men are married to their work. What they bring home is leftovers.”
Although those wounds may be hidden under better clothing, the lack of two emotionally available parents crosses cultural and demographic lines.
“I don’t think there’s anyone who hasn’t been shaped either by a father’s affirmations or the wound of their absence,” Mr. Cunningham said. “There isn’t a whole lot of a difference between so-called Christian families and secular families when it comes to unsuccessful families or families that malfunction.”
No matter how much money is poured into entitlement programs — or how much a father makes — “you spell love T-I-M-E,” which is something the government cannot provide, said Joel Garcia of Latino Townhall, a Las Vegas-based charity whose mission is to provide education, mentoring and coaching to Hispanic youths.
“A dad is much more than an on-time, reliable paycheck. He’s a human who contributes in very unique ways, and it’s also the relationship between the father and the mother,” Mr. Stanton said.
The Times’ in-depth analysis of millions of data points, which attracted thousands of comments online and requests for data and maps from community nonprofits, found that the rates of two-parent households have decreased markedly in every state over the past decade, especially in the South, a traditional bastion of purported family values.
It found that 32 percent of white families with children below the poverty line have two parents, while the rate was 41 percent for Hispanics and 12 percent for poor blacks.
But the problem is concentrated among blacks regardless of economic status. Most black children above the poverty line also live with only one parent, compared with 22 percent of whites.
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