When I was three years old my father walked out on our family. He moved on and began a new family of his own, without looking back. My mom single-handedly raised my brother and I throughout our childhood. She didn’t receive any financial support, so money was very scarce in our house. We didn’t have any visits or any connection with our father. He never made any attempt to stay involved in our lives. He started a new family; totally put us out of his mind and out of his life.
Every week, when our Replay Frontline Teams go to visit the incarcerated youth at the local juvenile justice lock-up facilities, we encounter broken children. Most of the time, it is because of the fractured families that these youth have grown up within. When speaking to the girls about a father that loves them, we see many girls bow their heads and cry. When sharing the same with the boys, you see their demeanor change and their eyes reveal anger, hurt, and pain.
- 24 million children in America — one out of three — live without fathers in their homes.[i]
- Studies have shown that a 1% increase in single-parent families in a neighborhood result in 3% increase in a level of adolescent violence. Fatherhood affects the community at-large[ii]
- Youth who lack a positive father figure, are more likely to suffer depression, which is a well-known predictor of alcohol abuse and related problems.[iii]
“High levels of father involvement are correlated with sociability, confidence, and high levels of self-control in children. Moreover, children with involved fathers are less likely to act out in school or engage in risky behaviors in adolescents.”[iv]
How do we impact these young troubled lives, without a father’s influence?
What made the difference for me were Godly men of faith taking me under their wing. My friends’ fathers became the ones who stepped in the gap and made a difference. I was invited to their homes, to family activities, and to church events along with them. This help took the pressure off of my mom, so that she could have time to herself and allowed me to see how “real” families live life.
I know many youth, raised without fathers or without loving fathers, who develop bitterness, rage, and resentment. They turn to many avenues to find that missing piece of their lives, including drugs, alcohol, and crime. They don’t learn what a loving father figure could mean to their lives.
The power of the mentor to make a difference can be life-changing! If youth can never experience a loving father, how can they every encounter the God who forgives and loves them so passionately.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him;
he ran to his son,
threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
[i] US Census Bureau, 2011.
[ii] Knoester, C., & Hayne, D. A. (2005). Community context, social integration into family, and youth violence. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 767-780.
[iii] Patock-Peckham, J. A., & Morgan-Lopez, A. A. (2007). College drinking behaviors: Mediational links between parenting styles, parental bonds, depression, and alcohol problems. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 21, 297–306
[iv] Anthes, E. (2010, May/June). Family guy. Scientific American Mind.