Poverty sucks. It places adults, families, and, saddest of all, children at risk for a host of poor outcomes. If you're at all familiar with the literature on father absence, you're well aware that children in father-absent homes are much more likely to grow up in poverty.
A recent study published in the journal Science sheds more light on just how much poverty sucks. The researchers concluded that poverty reduces the "cognitive bandwidth" poor people need to make the kinds of decisions and engage in the kinds of activities necessary to lift them out of poverty. Poverty's negative effects on the brains of poor people only adds to the burden imposed by a lack of money. The researchers noted that these negative effects are likely to include a negative effect on parenting in part because of the chronic stress created by living in a constant state of scarcity.
Chronic stress "short circuits" parenting. A child in a father-absent home is at a greater risk of being raised by a parent under chronic stress. This kind of stress—as opposed to situational stress—debilitates the body's natural response to stress. Just as a circuit that gets overloaded can no longer handle its normal function of allowing an electrical current to pass through it, parents who are under chronic stress become overloaded with the activities required of day-to-day survival, which leaves little or no time for the critical function of parenting their children. Parents who are under constant stress can react with "harsh, highly reactive parenting" or "disengage" from their parenting duties and "ignore" their children.
Father involvement is a vital part of the solution to poverty and the chronic stress and poor parenting it creates. We know, from a macrolevel perspective, that communities with higher levels of father absence have higher levels of poverty. We also know, from a microlevel perspective—and common sense, that an involved father provides the human capital families need to perform the parenting functions that parents, children, and families need to avoid chronic stress and thrive.
But it's not enough just to have fathers present in their children's lives. They must be involved, responsible, committed fathers. That's where the resources of National Fatherhood Initiative help. Whether you're a father looking for tips and guidance, you work in a community-based organization, correctional facility, or military installation that serves families and need an effective fatherhood program to facilitate, or a mother who wants to share fathering information with your husband or partner, we have the resources you need to be successful. Visit fatherhood.org and fathersource.org to get this help.
When was the last time you thought about poverty's effects on parenting and children? What are you doing about it?
This post is from LeVar Burton. LeVar is the Actor/Producer who Co-Founded Reading Rainbow Kidz. Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.
As a father of two, I know from personal experience how difficult it is for working dads to find time to spend with their kids. Time really seems to be the scare “currency” of the 21st century. So when we do spend time with our children, spending it wisely is imperative. It probably comes as no surprise to you that for me, reading is one of the best ways I know to make great quality out of scarce quantity.
Reading to our young children provides two critical components to their lives: the closeness that comes from sharing stories together; imagining, pretending and learning that few other activities provide. It also gives them proven educational advantages they will gain from for the rest of their lives. Study after study demonstrates a clear correlation between kids whose parents read to them consistently before kindergarten and greater scholastic achievement.
So back to Dads. Any parent can (and should!) read to their kids, but why are Dads so important? Kids are remarkably aware of the world around them, much more so than we give them credit for. They role model after both parents and they have a keen eye for where priorities are in their family. Moms in our society tend to be the caregivers (even when they are also the breadwinners)…the “go to” for so much of the personal, intimate attention kids need.
Dads tend to be less about closeness and more about “play.” Reading is by nature a very close and personal way of communicating. At bedtime or on the couch (instead of TV), Dads curled up with a young one reading offers a great chance for men to be close to their kids; connected through books to the greater world around them.
Taking this time “just for them” also offers a more subtle message about their priority in a father’s life. They know we dads are busy and often tired when we come home. Kids hear and see it. When a Dad takes the time away from other activities, when we make that special effort to read with just them, we teach them quietly how very important they really are to us. They see that we use precious time, that scarce currency, not for football or returning phone calls or the internet, but for them.
So Dads, pick up a book or a tablet tonight and read with your kids. Read to them in silly voices, make up new endings to familiar stories and look into their eyes afterwards and see just how much return you get on the investment of 15 minutes of our scarce but immeasurably valuable time.
Reading Rainbow’s mission is to inspire a love of reading in children and connect them to the world they live in through quality literature so they believe that they, “can go anywhere, be anything.”
Try the app for FREE on your iPad (at the iTunes App Store) or Kindle (at the Amazon App Store), download any of our Classic Reading Rainbow episodes on iTunes or learn more about Reading Rainbow and all our digital products at www.readingrainbow.com.
This post is from Richard Beaty. Richard is the father of three who directs TEAM DAD, a Responsible Fatherhood program of Douglas-Cherokee Economic Authority. Find Richard at www.team-dad.org or on Twitter @TeamDad1. Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.
“How do you take your coffee?”
“Black,” I reply without hesitation.
There are lots of health reasons for drinking coffee black. Fewer calories, greater appreciation of the full flavor of the bean etc.
But here are three reasons why I drink my coffee with no cream and no sugar:
- Black Coffee is Manly, Seriously: People always look you in the eye and reassess you when you order your coffee black. They think: “dude’s a man”. I am not really good with tools or engines or weapons...so I can use the man cred. (what does the fact that I have even typed the phrase “man cred” say about my total lack of it?)
- Black Coffee Makes Life Easier: It makes life easier for the preparer of the coffee. Any other coffee order results in needless dialog and concern about pleasing the drinker. "How much sugar? Cream, milk or that non-dairy powdery stuff?" Immediate pressure is put on the coffee offerer. Or they give up and just provide the possible accessories and have to admit defeat. But if you order it black, they think “this guy’s easy to please, must be a good guy.” I like being thought of as a good guy.
- Black Coffee Gives You the 'Coffee Face': My kids noticed years ago that when I take my first sip of each cup of coffee I make a face. It’s a squinchy-eyed-this-will-be-hot-and-bitter-but-I-am-gonna-go-for-it-anyway face. In my mind, that face makes me look a little like Clint Eastwood. So being associated with a man’s man is a good deal. Plus even today, my kids giggle when they see that face. And the sound of your children giggling is worth many cups of hot bitterness.
Here's my point: what's an everyday task, like drinking coffee, that you can use to connect with your child? Yes, this isn't simply a post about coffee. It's about fatherhood. Dad, we make this dad-thing too complicated. Connecting with your child is simple. As simple as black coffee.
So, how do you take your coffee?
"We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give." —Sir Winston Churchill
I trust you enjoyed Thanksgiving with your family. First, there was "Black Friday." Then came "Cyber Monday." Today is "Giving Tuesday!" Whether you shopped in-store or online in the last few days, today is for giving instead of getting!
Giving Tuesday is a movement that started a few years ago to encourage folks to support the causes that are important to them. For this #GivingTuesday, NFI wants you, our dedicated blog reader, involved in generating support for our work to connect fathers to their children.
Here are two ways you can help us make #GivingTuesday a success:
- Share our official #GivingTuesday webpage. Click the share buttons on the left of the page, making it easy for you to spread the word about NFI's page. Share our page with your followers using #GivingTuesday. Here are a few sample posts you can use to share with your followers:
- Need help not overspending this holiday season? #GivingTuesday is here! http://bit.ly/nfigivetues @TheFatherFactor [Tweet this]
- So you wanna "give back"? What are u waiting for? #GivingTuesday http://bit.ly/nfigivetues @TheFatherFactor [Tweet this]
- Take advantage of the post-holiday deals. But spare some cash this year. http://bit.ly/nfigivetues @TheFatherFactor [Tweet this]
- Generate donations to NFI. Go to our online donation page, share it with your network, or make a donation.
You read our blog, but you may not realize just how much work we do to strengthen fatherhood. Here are a few recent accomplishments we are especially proud of:
- We just delivered over 117,000 resources to 69 Army bases worldwide to build Army dads’ skills.
- We have now distributed over 6.6 million fatherhood skill-building resources.
- We have trained over 13,400 practitioners from over 6,200 organizations on how to deliver our programming into their communities.
- Our program for incarcerated fathers was just listed on the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices.
This post is from Kyle Bradford. Kyle is a divorced father and founder of ChopperPapa. He hosts the monthly podcast, Fatherhood Wide Open and lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.
If you’re a single or divorced father I feel your pain. I’ve been one for almost a decade and during that time have had the pleasure of experiencing every emotion men in our situation go through. I know what it’s like to have your soul ripped away Sunday evenings, I understand the helplessness, frustration, and wondering if a toss of the towel wouldn’t be best for everyone. I’m intimately familiar with the hidden dangers masquerading as shiny objects lying in wait for the single dad—looking to drag him away from what really matters.
Being a single father means we may never have a ‘traditional’ relationship with our children; we cannot always be there to tuck them in at night or band-aide every scrape and bruise. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be any less extraordinary; being fathers who have tremendously positive impacts on our children’s lives. Regardless of the claims made by many in the larger culture, fathers are a vital component for the long-term success of children and that fact isn’t contingent on our marital or relationship status.
Regrettably, I began my single fatherhood journey alone, refusing to connect with other men who have walked the path before me, choosing instead to strike out on my own. As a result I made terrible mistakes; choices, looking back, I would gladly change. My only saving grace was the age of my children. Both under the age of three when I divorced, I was able to hide many of those poor decisions behind their naivety and naptime. Most fathers aren’t so fortunate.
Certainly, I have been burned by these rings of fire and have the scorch marks to prove it, but one thing about mistakes are the lessons they hide, if only we pay attention. As a ‘seasoned’ single dad, I’m often asked for advice by those just beginning the single fatherhood journey, and while there is no ‘one size’ answer to solve all of our problems I have come to recognize certain stops we all should make along the journey if we wish to be the father our children need.
1) Responsibility: I’m referring to all areas of single fatherhood, especially the financial. Arguments can be made for and against the fairness of child support. But there can be no doubt that our responsibility to provide for our children, and their mother, is not subject to relationship status. Being accountable means fulfilling the emotional—and the financial—needs of our children. A great single dad does not look to avoid or ignore these responsibilities.
2) Reliability: Children from broken homes already have an uphill climb, they don’t need an inconsistent father to make things worse. A great single dad is a reliable single dad. That means being a consistent presence in our children’s lives, attending sporting events, recitals, and the annual daddy-daughter dance is just a start. And the following is of special note, if you say you will be there—be there. Too many children are left sitting on the front porch waiting for a father, who said he would come, that never shows.
3) Guardrails: While "Disney-Land dad" might appear more the grumblings of a jealous mom, many single dads are prone to let kids get away with too much simply because it’s easier. Kids need healthy boundaries and this is especially so of kids from broken homes. Set out clear ground rules with your children that correspond with what is happening at mom’s house. If they can’t do something at her house, they shouldn’t do it at yours, either.
4) Family: You’re a family whether there’s a mom in the home or not. So as fathers, we should do our best to make our home feel like their home. Children shouldn’t think they’re staying at a hotel when they come to dad’s house. That means keeping our home clean and kid friendly with snacks, books, and games they enjoy. If possible, it also implies giving our kids a space of their own. A room or, if nothing else, a corner where they can feel secure. Additionally, being a family means doing things as a family and that starts with regularly eating dinners together, in our technology-riddled world there may be no better place to pour our lives into our children than around a table.
5) Respect: Your children’s mother may not be your best friend. Co-parenting is rife with emotions that lead to deep scars but it is vital that fathers NEVER speak negatively about their child’s mother, including snide remarks, off-color comments, or innuendos about her, her behavior, or her partner. Even if she chooses not to return the favor, fathers should set the example by taking the high road. Anything less is selfishness whose purpose is persuading kids to choose sides.
Parenting in what I call the ‘modern family’ isn’t without significant trials and challenges, it’s enough to make parent, dad or mom, want to give up. But it’s in these times of turmoil that children need the strength of a father, to have a man they can look to for inspiration and wisdom, a man who can impact them in healthy ways. Because the fact of the matter is, as single fathers we will have an influence on our children; it is for us to decide what that will ultimately be.
"24 million children in America grow up without their father at home."
—United States Census Bureau
There is a crisis in America. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America—one out of three—live without their biological father in the home.
Consequently, there is a “father factor” in nearly all of the societal issues facing America today.
Research shows when a child is raised in a father-absent home, he or she is...
1) Four Times More Likely to Live in Poverty
2) More Likely to Have Behavorial Problems
- Children in father-absent homes are almost four times more likely to be poor. (U.S. Census Bureau) <Tweet this>
3) Two Times Greater Risk of Infant Mortality
- Children of single mothers show higher levels of aggressive behavior than children born to married mothers. (Journal of Marriage and Family)
4) More Likely to go to Prison
- Infant mortality rates are nearly two times higher for infants of unmarried mothers than for married mothers. (National Center for Health Statistics)
5) More Likely to Commit Crime
- One in five prison inmates had a father in prison. (Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs) <Tweet this>
6) Seven Times More Likely to Become Pregnant as a Teen
- Study of juvenile offenders indicated that family structure significantly predicts delinquency. (Journal of Youth and Adolescence)
7) More Likely to Face Abuse and Neglect
- Teens without fathers are twice as likely to be involved in early sexual activity and seven times more likely to get pregnant as an adolescent. (Child Development Journal)
8) More Likely to Abuse Drugs and Alcohol
- Compared to children living with married biological parents, those whose single parent had a live-in partner had more than 8 times the rate of maltreatment overall, over 10 times the rate of abuse adn more than 6 times the rate of neglect. (Child's Bureau)
9) Two Times More Likely to Suffer Obesity
- Youth are more at risk of first substance use without a highly involved father. (Social Science Research)
- Adolescents whose fathers were drug abusers revealed that paternal smoking and drug use lead to strained father-child relationships. This weakened relationship led to greater adolescent maladjustment with family and friends and a higher risk for adolescent drug use and smoking. Fathers who smoke cigarettes were less likely to enforce antismoking rules for their children and had weaker bonds in terms of adolescent admiration and emulation. (Pediatrics)
10) Two Times More Likely to Drop Out of High School
- Obese children are more likely to live in father-absent homes than are non-obese children. (National Longitudinal Survey of Youth)
- Students living in father-absent homes are twice as likely to repeat a grade in school. (U.S. Department of Education)
- Father involvement in schools is associated with the higher likelihood of their children getting mostly A's. (U.S. Department of Education)
- In the typical elementary school classroom of 20 students, 7 of them—over 33 percent—are growing up without their biological father in the home. (U.S. Census Bureau) <Tweet this>
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Visit www.fatherhood.org to learn how to be a great dad and support NFI’s work to connect fathers to children.
Regular readers of The Father Factor know that this blog is a great source of helpful tips for dads and funny/inspiring stories from fathers and dadbloggers about their experiences in fathering.
But perhaps you’ve wondered what else National Fatherhood Initiative does to fulfill our mission of improving child well-being by increasing the proportion of children who grow up with involved, responsible, and committed children.
Since 2004, NFI has distributed 6.3 million fatherhood resources to dads to help them be the best dads they can be. Troy is one of those dads. His story of connection with his son Xavier, despite the challenges of incarceration and loss, is an inspiration to those of us who work here at NFI. We hope it inspires and encourages you, too.
The story below is reprinted from NFI’s Executive Quarterly newsletter. Please consider supporting NFI financially with a gift of $25, $50, $100 or more to help us reach more dads and kids like Troy and Xavier.
Troy Gaines knows firsthand the pain of wondering why his dad didn’t care enough about him to be part of his life. But thanks to NFI – and the support of people like you – his son Xavier doesn’t have to ask those questions.
“My father, as far as I was concerned, didn’t have any kind of role.” Troy’s dad never said anything of substance to him, offer guidance, or even show up to watch Troy’s football games. Troy felt like he had done something wrong to make his father not want to see him. The pain made him want to lash out.
Troy looked for other people to fill that void and teach him things about life. Unfortunately, the people he turned to were the guys in his neighborhood who were doing “all the bad stuff.” Eventually, Troy ended up in prison.
One week prior to landing in prison, Troy became a father to Xavier. “I remember thinking that Xavier would feel the same way about me as I felt about my father. I’m not going to be able to connect with him and show him the path to growing as a man.”
One day, some men looking for drugs came to the wrong house and shot and killed Troy’s girlfriend, the mother of Xavier. This tragic event was a pivotal moment in changing Troy’s outlook on life. “I had to make a serious, serious change in me, my mind, the way I did things, and the way I presented myself to my community. I didn’t have all the answers and I needed to go to someone or go somewhere where I could find some guidance on fatherhood and being a better man.”
Thankfully, his facility offered National Fatherhood Initiative’s InsideOut Dad® program. InsideOut Dad® gave Troy the inspiration to make a better life for himself and the skills to connect with his son. Troy is now committed to being an involved, responsible, and committed dad. He helps Xavier with homework and goes to his football practices – the very things he craved so much from his dad.
“The [National] Fatherhood Initiative program helped me realize that you have to make some changes in your life because what you’re doing is going to affect your boy. Kids do exactly what they see their parents do. If I didn’t straighten up how I did, he would probably follow in my footsteps because he wanted to be like me. I tell my son at least five times a day that I love him. We love each other. I think he understands and believes that my focus is to be the best man in this world that I can.”
The positive impact that Troy is making in his son’s life is obvious. Xavier told us, “With my dad at my games, I feel better and I care more. I love him a lot because he is a very good dad. If you make a mistake, he’ll make you keep going and going and… make you lift your head up. My dad loves me and would do anything for me.”
These kinds of changes are only possible because of the financial support of people like you. NFI depends on the generosity of donors to make our programs available to dads like Troy. Ultimately, it’s kids like Xavier who really reap the benefits of your support. Please donate today to help us give more kids like Xavier a brighter future.
National Fatherhood Initiative annouces the release of an updated version of InsideOut Dad®, the nation’s only evidence-based program designed specifically for incarcerated fathers.
NFI’s team of fatherhood experts incorporated practitioner feedback and evaluation data from around the country to refresh the program, which is already standardized programming in 24 states and New York City.
InsideOut Dad® Second Edition is designed to reduce recidivism rates by reconnecting incarcerated fathers to their families, providing the motivation inmate fathers need to get out and stay out.
For example, a three-year study by the Indiana Department of Corrections found that fatherhood programs such as InsideOut Dad® were linked to prisoner return rates of less than 20%, compared to a national rate of nearly 38%.
These reductions in recidivism can lead to enormous cost savings for taxpayers and the criminal justice system. Nationally, the annual cost of incarceration per inmate is between $25,000 and $40,000. The cost to take an incarcerated father through the InsideOut Dad® program could be as little as $40.
Used by both inmates and ex-offenders, InsideOut Dad® has been proven, through an extensive evaluation by Rutgers University, to improve inmate knowledge and attitudes. Hundreds of state and federal facilities, pre-release programs, community organizations, and more are using this life-changing reentry program. Facilities such as Angola State Prison in Louisiana, the Rikers Island complex in New York, and U.S. Penitentiary Leavenworth in Kansas are among the notable facilities that have run the program for inmate fathers.
Through practical, engaging material delivered in 12 core sessions and 4 optional sessions, InsideOut Dad® increases inmates' self-worth and gives them valuable relationship skills. It covers topics such as Being a Man, Co-Parenting and Communication, Men’s Health, and Children’s Growth and Discipline.
National Fatherhood Initiative started working with incarcerated fathers in 1999, leading to the release of the first edition of InsideOut Dad® in 2004. Through its use in over 400 correctional facilities over the years, NFI’s fatherhood experts gathered user feedback to create the second edition, a more content-rich, user-friendly, and engaging curriculum for fathers, which now includes video and other activities to maximize its impact.
More information on InsideOut Dad® Second Edition can be found at fathersource.org.
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