Fathers: The Greatest Weapon Against Poverty

Today is Father’s Day, a day set aside to acknowledge and appreciate fathers. As good citizens, we should look beyond the gifts and other trappings to examine in a practical sense why fathers should be appreciated.

I grew up in an intact family.  My father worked hard as a farmer, and though we were always pretty poor compared to most standards, we never went hungry and never lacked the basic necessities. More than anything, I always knew that my parents loved me and were there to take care of me.

When I grew up, I chose an easier life than farming, and no one who knows me would ever call me “rich,” God has blessed me and my family with a comfortable life and income.  My children have more material bells and whistles to adorn their lives than I ever dreamed of, but we still place genuine needs ahead of luxuries.

But not all children grow up in homes where they know they are loved, where they have the basic necessities provided for them, where they have both a mother and a father there to help teach them and be role models for both sexes and how the sexes are supposed to function together in a complimentary fashion.  Having spent several years in law enforcement, and having helped with ministry to the poor at my church for many years, I have had the opportunity to be inside the homes of a lot of people.  Sometimes (too many times) what I saw broke my heart.

I haven’t looked at this for several years, but I remember looking at some statistics about welfare and family situations in South Dakota about 10 years ago. Of the thousands of families on welfare in the state, only 0.3% of them were intact, two-parent families. Fully 99.7% of families on welfare were from broken families.  Though I haven’t seen recent statistics for South Dakota, based on some recently released information from the Heritage Foundation, I would venture that ratio probably hasn’t changed much.

As a recent post at The Foundry, the Heritage Foundation’s blog, says

A wedding ring on Dad’s finger is more than a symbol of his commitment to Mom. It also proves to be the ultimate anti-poverty weapon for their children. Now that’s something to celebrate and encourage this Father’s Day. It’s fitting on Sunday to honor all the fathers who strive to keep that commitment, even when they grow weary.

Fathers don’t have it easy these days. The federal government (most levels of government to some extent) has come along and essentially said fathers are unnecessary; they’ve let it be known that if a father walks out on his responsibilities and the children he helped create, the government will step in with a check–though a check is a pale substitute for all that a father provides in a home.  Also, culturally, we’ve gone from a “Father Knows Best” mentality to one where men and fathers are portrayed on television as buffoons who can’t do anything right and must be herded along like idiots by their wives and children.   When society says that’s what a father looks like, who’d want to be one?

Indeed, many men have bailed out completely on fatherhood–except for the part that involves making children.  Robert Rector, senior research fellow in domestic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation, wrote a paper recently which points out that before the cultural revolution of the 1960s, only about 5% or fewer children were born out of wedlock.  Now that figure is a staggering 40% or more.  His figures also show that in America, of all poor families, only 6.4% are from married two-parent families.  It’s no wonder Rector says the decline in marriage and engaged fatherhood is creating a two-caste society where one class is subjected to unnecessary poverty.

But fathers don’t simply contribute to the material wealth of a family, as important as that is. Consider these other benefits of an intact family.  Children from single-parent families are:

  • More than twice as likely to be arrested for a juvenile crime
  • Twice as likely to be treated for emotional and behavioral problems
  • Roughly twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from school
  • A third more likely to drop out before completing high school

If we as a society REALLY want to contribute to the academic (and every other type of) success of our nation’s children, rather than throwing more and more money down the hole of the failing public education system, we should be encouraging marriage and fatherhood on a culture-wide scale.

Rector points out that the benefits of an intact family and father present in the home carry on into adulthood:

  • Children from broken and single-parent homes are three times more likely to end up in jail by the time they reach age 30
  • Girls from single-parent homes are more than twice as likely to have a child without being married, thereby repeating the negative cycle for another generation
  • Children living in single parent homes are 50 percent more likely to experience poverty as adults when compared to children from intact married homes

America, isn’t it time we put away our selfish focus on individual selves, what we want, our self-fulfillment, our career goals, our wealth goals, our transitory sexual satisfaction and all this mess…and started putting our children’s welfare ahead of our own desires?  Isn’t it time we quit listening to the social engineers (who are doing nothing but making it up as they go) who tell us you can “have it all” without the responsibility and hard work it takes to make a family?  Isn’t it time we quit believing the liberals who insist we pour more and more money down the bottomless pit of public education…and the juvenile justice system?

Isn’t it time we stopped remaining silent while pop culture maligns fathers and fatherhood?  Isn’t it time we did more to support and appreciate fatherhood than providing a day when fathers can receive a tie or cologne on one Sunday a year?

Fathers, isn’t it time we took responsibility–and helped other fathers take responsibility–for the children we helped create?

3 Responses to “Fathers: The Greatest Weapon Against Poverty”

  1. Wow, well said. I guess there are no comments 'cause there's nothing to add.

  2. Dear Bill Ellis,

    I am in agreement with much of what you wrote concerning the crucial role of fathers in families and the need to encourage and support responsible fatherhood. As a life long Christian and a father and grandfather I do my best to support these efforts in my church and my community and in my 38 years as a public school teacher. However, you go astray at blaming liberals for supporting needy single parent families by providing programs (including public school funding) and financial support.

    It is interesting that liberal states of the northeast have some of the lowest divorce and teen pregnancy rates while the conservative “Bible Belt” states have the highest. Maybe we should look at other factors involved and begin to encourage effective programs for responsible parenthood. Please don’t throw stones at the wrong targets and maybe you and all of us should be careful not to throw any stones less we stray from the central message of the One whom I believe God sent to show us the true Way!

    Sincerely, Larry Nilson –

    Washington resident recently emigrated after 70 years in New England and having taught in outstanding Massachusetts public schools ranked near the highest in the US and in the top five in the world in math and science!