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Center reaches out to help dads support kids

August 25, 2008

It's August, not June!

Didn't we already have Father's Day?

Why are we talking about dads 70 days after Father's Day?

We are glad you asked. Dads are important (as well as moms) 365 days a year! Just ask any child, especially those who are without a father.

At the Christian Youth Center, we have a 50-year history of helping children and working with teens. Over the past decade or so, we have noticed that a great deal of the issues children and teens are struggling with are directly related to the breakdown of the family unit, and more specifically, the breakdown of marriage. We are also aware of a growing crisis in our country and our community, if not dealt with, that will continue to destroy the lives of children, teens and families. That most urgent social crisis is fatherlessness.

According to author/speaker Rick Johnson of Better Dads Inc., "the number of children being raised in homes today without a father has reached epidemic proportions in our country." And Larry Bumpass in "Children and Marital Disruption" says that, "Tonight, about 40 percent of American children will go to sleep in homes in which their fathers do not live. Before they reach the age of 18, more than half of our nation's children are likely to spend at least a significant portion of their childhoods living apart from their fathers."

Can this continuing crisis be good for our community, our county, our state, or our country? Absolutely not. The facts make the case for why we are having so much trouble amongst kids and teens, and how it is tragically affecting them:

• Children in father-absent homes are five times more likely to be poor. (U.S. Census Bureau)

• Fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug an alcohol abuse. (U.S. Dept. Health)

• Children in single-parent families are two to three times as likely as children in two-parent families to have emotional and behavioral problems. (U.S. Dept. Health)

• Fatherless children are twice as likely to drop out of school. (U.S. Dept Health)

• In a study of INTERPOL crime statistics of 39 countries, it was found that single parenthood ratios were strongly correlated with violent crimes. This was not true 18 years ago.

• Adolescent females between the ages of 15 and 19 years reared in homes without fathers are significantly more likely to engage in premarital sex than adolescent females reared in homes with a mother and a father.

The facts surrounding the consequences of fatherlessness in our society are too numerous to publish in just one newspaper, let alone this article. Yet, the truth that many wish to ignore, is still evident before all of us--that today in our maternity wards across the country, 35 percent of the children born will come from unwed mothers. (U.S. Dept. Health)

So how can we end this crisis and turn things around?

We at the Christian Youth Center believe that in working with kids and teenagers, we must build bridges of support, training and encouragement into the whole family. One of the key components of that loving support system, called the family, is a father. We believe strongly that fathers play an important role in a child's life. We also believe that children need their fathers physically present, as well as emotionally present.

Therefore, we envision a fatherhood movement for our community, county and region that is broadly based, overcoming barriers of income, race and politics, represented by many voices and organizations, active at every level of our society. We seek a fatherhood movement that is united by one idea: For every child, a loving, committed and responsible father.

To that end, we seek to strengthen families and offer kids hope and future by;

• Raising the awareness of the importance of a father's role in the family. For children, fathers are an important piece in the puzzle of life. They play essential roles in front of and behind the scenes. They are providers and protectors. Fathers are there to support the mother of their children as well as encourage their children to strive to be the best they can be.

We reject the idea from Hollywood and the media that dads are na�ve fools. Along with others we wish to promote and reinforce the idea that involved, loving fathers can make a difference in our culture.

• Providing resources, tools, education and training we hope to assist dads in their efforts to love, provide, and support their families. We believe most dads want to be good fathers, but may lack in ideas or healthy role models for being great dads.

• Supporting fathers who are hurting and struggling through accountability groups, counseling and intervention.

Dr. Ken Canfield, author of "They Call Me Dad" said, "I've spoken with hundreds of men who were provoked and embittered by hostile and uncaring fathers. Now that they are fathers, many of those negative memories and heated emotions may have come flooding back leaving them unprepared to relate responsibly to their own kids."

• Intervening in the growing population of fatherless children in our community and region through faith-based, church-driven youth mentoring. We believe that positive role models and mentoring in a child's life can increase a child's self esteem, confidence, over all well being.

In January 2009, the Christian Youth Center is hosting a summit on faith-based youth mentoring entitled; "Making a Difference In A Hurting World." All churches, faith-based organizations and teachers are invited to attend.

Fatherhood was once an honored and respected position, and we need to make it so again today. When men fulfill their God-ordained role as leaders in their families and communities, there will we be a transformation healthier families, and therefore a healthier society. Together we can work towards that end: One Dad, One Family, One Community at a time.

Champion Dads Essay Contest

In an inaugural event to celebrate Dad's role in the family the Christian Youth Center is sponsoring an Essay Contest: "Why My Dad is a Champion Dad?"

All kids, from all corners of Will County, and all ages are invited to submit a short essay about their fathers, step-fathers, or paternal guardian.

After all of the essays are submitted, evaluated, and voted upon, three fathers will be honored in October with The Christian Youth Center's 2008 Champion Dad Award, along with special prizes. See the details below.