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The Father Factor

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NFI on C-SPAN's Washington Journal

NFI's Vincent DiCaro was interviewed on C-SPAN's Washington Journal this weekend and talked about the goal and mission of the NFI and the public policy issues we promote to improve the well-being of children by increasing the proportion of children growing up with involved, responsible, and committed fathers. 

While the video embedded below is almost 40 minutes, the first five minutes will help viewers understand the vital work NFI is doing to strengthen fatherhood in America.


Can't view the video? Visit here.


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NFI Presents 2013 Military Fatherhood Award™ to RPC Patrick Mondragon

RPC Mondragon Chosen From Among Hundreds of Nominees to Receive Prestigious Annual Award for an Exemplary Military Dad

At a ceremony this morning at the Third Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) presented the 2013 Military Fatherhood Award™ to RPC Patrick Mondragon, US Navy.

rpc mondragon navyMondragon, a husband and father of two, had to act as a solo parent during his wife’s recent life-threatening health complications. During that time, he cared for his wife and children while continuing to fulfill his military duties. In a display of amazing work-family balance, he recorded over 20 videos of himself reading stories to his children so that they could see and hear him while he was onboard the USS Bunker Hill and forward deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

In addition to caring for his own family, he dedicates himself to supporting other military families. As a religious program specialist on his base, he counsels dads and families on handling the challenges of military life. He was also the United through Reading Program Coordinator on the USS Bunker Hill, helping hundreds of dads stay connected to their children while deployed.

One of RPC Mondragon’s fellow sailors said, “I am not surprised that RPC Mondragon was selected. He is absolutely the father, man, sailor, RPC of the year, every year, in my book. I wish him and his family the best and I am so proud to serve along side of Patrick in the sea services.”

Earlier this year, NFI received hundreds of nominations for the Military Fatherhood Award™ from the wives, children, friends, and colleagues of our nation’s military dads, and then narrowed them down to four exemplary finalists, including RPC Mondragon.

The four finalists’ families then submitted home videos of why they thought their dad should be the recipient of the award. From mid-April to mid-May, the public was able to choose the recipient of the award by visiting National Fatherhood Initiative’s Facebook page and casting their votes for their favorite of the four finalists.

In RPC Mondragon’s video, his wife, Violet, said, “Patrick is so deserving of this award, and I can’t think of anyone more qualified for the Military Fatherhood Award™.”

The three other finalists were Maj. Kevin Billups, U.S. Air Force; Ssgt Charlie Linville, U.S. Marine Corps; and Ssgt Jorge Roman, U.S. Army.

nfi logo

Each year, the Military Fatherhood Award™ is given to a military dad who displays an ongoing commitment and dedication to his children, makes extraordinary efforts to father from a distance when deployed, successfully balances military and family life, and makes an effort to mentor other military fathers and/or military children who are separated from their fathers.

Several past Military Fatherhood Award™ recipients have been officially recognized by the White House. The 2012 awardee, 1st Lieutenant William Edwards of the U.S. Army, had lunch with President Obama and received his award at a “Champions of Change” event at the White House on June 13, 2012.

In addition to the award, NFI supports the U.S. Military as its #1 provider of fatherhood-specific resources. NFI has distributed nearly 300,000 fatherhood skill-building materials to bases all over the world for all five branches, and has trained family support services on how to deliver our numerous fatherhood curricula and programs.

The sponsors of the 2013 Military Fatherhood Award™ are Huggies®, Nissan USA, Acumen Solutions, Inc, Sandy Cove Ministries, and Boy Scouts of America.

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President Obama Talks Fatherhood in Morehouse College Speech

"Be the best father you can be to your children. Because nothing is more important." —Barack Obama, President

President Barack Obama recently delivered the commencement address at Morehouse College and talked personally about fatherhood and family.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the commencement ceremony at Morehouse College

Here are excerpts from President Obama's speech: 

  • ...I sure wish I had had a father who was not only present, but involved. Didn’t know my dad. And so my whole life, I’ve tried to be for Michelle and my girls what my father was not for my mother and me. I want to break that cycle where a father is not at home -- where a father is not helping to raise that son or daughter. I want to be a better father, a better husband, a better man.
     
  • It’s hard work that demands your constant attention and frequent sacrifice. And I promise you, Michelle will tell you I’m not perfect. She’s got a long list of my imperfections. Even now, I’m still practicing, I'm still learning, still getting corrected in terms of how to be a fine husband and a good father. But I will tell you this: Everything else is unfulfilled if we fail at family, if we fail at that responsibility.
  • I know that when I am on my deathbed someday, I will not be thinking about any particular legislation I passed; I will not be thinking about a policy I promoted; I will not be thinking about the speech I gave, I will not be thinking the Nobel Prize I received. I will be thinking about that walk I took with my daughters. I'll be thinking about a lazy afternoon with my wife. I'll be thinking about sitting around the dinner table and seeing them happy and healthy and knowing that they were loved. And I'll be thinking about whether I did right by all of them.

Watch President Obama's full address and read President Obama's commencement speech transcript.

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Image credit: (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The Precipitous Drop in Teen Birth Rates & What it Means for Dads

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

Last week the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released astounding data on the precipitous decline in the teen birth rate. The birth rate for teens 15-19 years of age fell 25 percent from 2007-2011 to an all-time low. The most significant drop, 34 percent, occurred among Hispanic teens.  

medium 5549214174Dr. Howard Koh, the Assistant Secretary of Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, notes in the Huffington Post that this is an acceleration of the decline we’ve witnessed for more than two decades. Dr. Koh points to a number of key factors that have led to this decline that include stronger pregnancy-prevention efforts (e.g. most notably those spearheaded by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy), teens choosing to delay sex (i.e. abstinence), and contraceptive use among sexually-active teens. The good news from NFI’s perspective is that this decline helps prevent father absence in the lives of children and the range of poor outcomes that these children experience, on average.  

As I reflected on these data and read Dr. Koh’s article, I couldn’t help but wonder why, despite this long-term trend, we see rates of unwed childbearing at an all-time high. The reason is that, more than ever, women in their twenties are having children out-of-wedlock. As I pointed out in an earlier post, nearly half of all births to twentysomethings (48 percent) occur outside of marriage. Coupled with the increase in age among women marrying for the first time exceeding the age at which they give birth to their first child, fathers should be very concerned about the prospects of our grandchildren growing up without involved, responsible, committed fathers in their lives.  

So what are fathers to make of all this good and not-so-good news? One thing for certain is that fathers can breathe a little easier knowing that their teens are less likely to become pregnant or get someone pregnant than when they (fathers) were teenagers. (Can you hear a big “Whew!” coming from this father of two teenage daughters?) But none of us should be under any illusion that there aren’t the same temptations for teens today to have sex than when we were in their shoes. In other words, don’t let any grass grow under your feet as you consider when to send your daughters or sons the message to not have sex until, ideally, they are married.  

What these data reinforce for every father is that the job of a father never ceases. When it comes to ensuring that our grandchildren grow up in homes with involved, responsible, committed fathers—regardless of whether we have daughters or sons—our work extends beyond adolescence and into our children’s twenties. We can’t breathe easy when we realize that so many children in our country are still at risk of growing up without involved, responsible, and committed fathers in their lives because of trends to which many Americans are oblivious. 

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photo credit: imagineerz

Google Doodle Literally Draws Attention to Fatherhood

Have you Googled anything today?! If you visit Google today, you'll notice a special drawing from a high school teen. The doodle is literally drawing attention to fatherhood!
Screen Shot 2013 05 23 at 3.53.04 PM

Sabrina Brady of Sparta, Wisc. was selected to be featured on Google for her doodle, “Coming Home.” 

Students in all 50 states doodled for the Google contest. This year’s theme was, “My Best Day Ever...” Sabrina’s doodle was picked because as Google says, "it tells the story of her reunion with her father as he returned from an 18 month deployment in Iraq. Her creative use of the Google letters to illustrate this heartfelt moment clearly resonated with voters across the country and all of us at Google."

Sabrina was awarded a $30,000 college scholarship and Google will also give her school a $50,000 technology grant. Congratulations, Sabrina...welcome home, dad...and nice work, Google! 

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Help Families in Oklahoma: Give to the Red Cross Now

"...As a father it's humbling...it's heartbreaking...to know that we still may have kids over there that's possibly alive..." —Volunteer with search & rescue post-tornado last night

Our thoughts and prayers are and will continue to be with the families involved in this storm. Please take time to help to the people of Oklahoma. Below are a couple of videos from CNN.com that tell the story on the ground in Oklahoma. Please consider giving to the Red Cross—they are on the ground now helping Oklahoma with food, shelter and support [details below.] 

Can see the video? Visit CNN.com for more details.

This video from CNN.com shows moments after the storm in Moore, Oklahoma...

The American Red Cross issued this statement following the tornado in Oklahoma yesterday afternoon, excerpts below: 

People in Oklahoma near the tornado area are encouraged to connect with one another and let loved ones know that they are safe. This can be done through the I’m Safe feature of the free Red Cross tornado app. In addition, if you have access to a computer, go to redcross.org/safeandwell to list yourself as safe. If not, you can text loved ones or call a family member and ask them to register you on the site.

This has been a major disaster, and the Red Cross will be there for the people in this state and this community. People who wish to make a donation can support American Red Cross Disaster Relief, which helps provide food, shelter and emotional support to those affected by disasters like the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma and Texas as well as disasters big and small throughout the United States by visiting redcross.org, dialing 1-800-REDCROSS or texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

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When Dad's in Jail—He's Still Dad: NFI Connects Father to Family

“I never had my dad or nobody tell me they were proud of me until this program..." —William Jones, recent graduate of NFI's InsideOut Dad, the skill-building program for incarcerated fathers. 

At National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), we often speak of our two approaches to engaging society about fatherhood. 1) Top-down: through communications campaigns and social media and 2) Bottom-up: our "boots on the ground" -- our work with community-based organizations and other civic partners to train and equip leaders to better serve the fathers in their communities.

One such example is our work in jails and prisons. The Richmond Times-Dispatch recently featured a program that's impacting the capital city of Virginia. The city jail uses our InsideOut Dad material that helps prisoners to be better dads. Read the following story; it shows what we really do.  

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“The goal is to get everybody to communicate with their kids, to relearn some parenting skills you never knew you had,” Fries said. At the completion ceremony, the men shared how the program affected them. Below are excerpts from the news article:

  • Ronnell Glasgow, 26, said he grew up without his father in his life and was repeating that pattern with his own children, daughters ages 7 and 9.
  • Glasgow is behind bars at the Richmond City Jail, but even when he was out he said he thought giving them material things was enough.
  • Just weeks into a fatherhood skills training program at the jail, Glasgow said he had reached out to his own emotionally distant father and was communicating more with his daughters, who he said are no longer shy around him.
  • “I understand the importance of not having a father,” Glasgow said, adding that with his own father he was “building a relationship as a father and a man.”
  • One man described having a 15-minute telephone conversation with his daughter, who he rarely spoke to before. 
  • Another described overcoming fear of rejection and reaching out to an adult daughter and his surprise at her welcoming response. 
  • Another talked about writing to his 6-year-old son and getting a reply.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that one recent graduate said after the program, “Being there for my kids is better than any gift,” said William Jones, 22, father of four children. Jones is in jail on a probation violation and plans to enter an addiction-treatment program when he is released.

A new 12-week session of InsideOut Dad at the Richmond City jail starts tomorrow (Tuesday). What's the prison nearest you doing to teach fathers the skills they need to be better dads?

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Image: [Daniel Sangjib Min/TIMES-DISPATCH] Dennis Fries (left) an instructor for the InsideOut Dad program, gets a hug from William Jones, a participant in the class who wants better relationships with his four children.

NFI Honors Military Dads! Vote Before Midnight May 17th!

NFI's Vince DiCaro talks about how you can pick the winner of the 2013 Military Fatherhood Award. Vote for your favorite finalist before Friday, May 17!

 Can't view the video? Visit Fox News Live for full video

Vince DiCaro was interviewed yesterday on Fox News Live and discussed our 2013 Military Fatherhood Award Finalists. As Vince points out, we have four amazing finalists: 

mondragonChief Petty Officer Patrick Mondragon, U.S. Navy.

  • Currently serving at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California
  • Father of two kids, daughter age 9 and son age 8

His wife became very ill recently. He became a sole parent for their children. He took care of his wife and children all while serving our country. Get parenting tips from CPO Mondragon here.
 

romanStaff Sergeant Jorge Roman, U.S. Army.

  • Currently serving at Fort Stewart, Georgia
  • Father of two daughters, ages 9 and 8, and expecting another

He is a first-generation immigrant. His parents worked hard to see their son build a life here and he is a great example of service. Get parenting tips from SSgt Roman here



 

linvilleStaff Sergeant Charlie Linville, U.S. Marine Corps.

  • Currently serving at Balboa Naval Medical Center Wounded Warrior Battalion in San Diego, CA
  • Father of two daughters, ages 5 and 2

He's a wounded warrier. Within 36 hours of having his leg amputated, we was cheering his daughter on at her karate class. Get parenting tips from SSgt Linville here.

billupsMajor Kevin Billups, U.S. Air Force.

  • Currently serving at Tyndale AFB, FL
  • Father of three children

He recorded himself reading to his children so that when he was deployed his children would know how much he loved them. Get parenting tips from Major Billups here


Pick your favorite finalist and vote before tomorrow at midnight!

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(Video) Dads Club Strengthens Fatherhood

NFI's Vince DiCaro was interviewed today on Fox News Live about our new Dads Club™ and our partnership with Dove® Men+Care™.

Jonathan Hunt of the "On the Hunt" program discussed how NFI's partnership with Dove® Men+Care™ will strengthen fatherhood by helping fathers be better dads.

Learn how you can connect with other dads and share parenting tips today!


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NFI and Dove® Men+Care™ Team Up to Launch Dads Club™

New Club Will Be Place for Fathers Who Care for What Matters to Support Each Other and the Cause of Responsible Fatherhood
In a national press release posted this morning, National Fatherhood Initiative and Dove® Men+Care™ have partnered to launch the Dads Club™, a membership club where dads can come together to support each other and bolster efforts to strengthen fatherhood.

National Fatherhood Initiative and Dove Men Care Dads ClubToday’s dads are finding that social media and the Internet are providing unprecedented opportunities to network, share stories, and support each other in their fathering journeys. However, there is no “hub” where fathers can come together to not only help each other become better dads, but to also make a meaningful contribution to the cause of strengthening the institution of fatherhood in America.

A corporate-nonprofit partnership is an ideal mechanism to meet this need, and Dove® Men+Care™ and National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) are the ideal partners. NFI has worked since 1994 to strengthen the institution of fatherhood through public education campaigns, research, and the distribution of fatherhood skill-building materials to individuals and organizations around the country. Dove® Men+Care™ has demonstrated a true commitment to creating a more positive and inspirational image of men and fathers through its “Real Moments” campaign (www.dovemencare.com)

“NFI is delighted to have a committed partner like Dove® Men+Care™ to not only help us provide a safe place for dads to help each other, but to become a partner in our work to ensure that every child has an involved, responsible, and committed father,” said Vincent DiCaro, NFI’s vice president of development and communication. 
 

Members of the new Dads Club™ will receive various benefits upon joining, including:

  • samples of Dove® Men+Care™ products 
  • Exclusive monthly e-newsletter with expert fathering advice or funny stories and encouragement for dads plus special messages from Dove® Men+Care™
  • a co-logoed Dads Club™ t-shirt 
  • a Dads Club™ photo magnet 
  • and a copy of NFI’s “Dad’s Pocket Guide” 

“Dove® Men+Care™ is proud to partner with National Fatherhood Initiative to launch Dads Club™ in our continued effort to help men care for what matters most,” said Rob Candelino, vice president marketing for Unilever Skincare.  “Research shows that men today are prioritizing taking care of their families, and as a dad, I understand the importance of having dedicated resources and tools on which men can rely as they continue to embrace fatherhood. This program is one important way Dove® Men+Care™ aims to support the dedicated, caring, dad community.” 

Through the partners’ Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, web properties, a members-only e-newsletter, and use of the hashtag #dadsclub, Dads Club™ members will have various spaces in which to come together as fathers, receive advice, and support the cause. Over time, NFI and Dove® Men+Care™ will engage notable dads to become inspirational figures for fathers and ambassadors for the cause of strengthening fatherhood. Dads Club™ membership will be available for a one-time $35 contribution to NFI, a portion of which will be a tax-deductible, charitable donation to support NFI’s work. This one-time contribution entitles dads to a lifetime membership in the Dads Club™. Fathers can join at http://www.fatherhood.org/dadsclub. 

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A Working Woman's Response to 'Leaning In' to Fatherhood

This is a guest post by Claire M. Fraser, PhD. Claire is a Professor of Medicine and Director, Institute for Genome Sciences, University of Maryland School of Medicine. If you are interested in guest blogging, send us an email. 

As a successful professional woman who has risen to the top of the ranks in the male-dominated field of academic science, I have been on the receiving end of many questions in the past couple of weeks asking my opinion about Sheryl Sandberg’s advice to women to “lean in” more in the workplace - to speak up, to self-promote, and to move outside a perceived comfort zone in order to climb the professional ladder.

balancing work and family can be tricky for both genders“Leaning in” has been essential to my career success, and for many years I did it reluctantly, feeling like I was a fraud whenever I dared to express my thoughts and opinions. Today, I encourage my junior female faculty members to “lean in” every chance they get, no matter how awkward or uncomfortable it may feel. This is not an option – it is essential if we are to realize our full career potential.

While this seems like straightforward advice, we should also consider what it means to “lean in” outside of the workplace. I was fortunate to hear Vince DiCaro’s Fox News interview on March 28, in which he encouraged moms to “lean in” to fatherhood. This is indeed good advice.

From my own experience, and in speaking with many colleagues over the past 20 years, I have come to believe that a healthy work-life balance - which taps into the best that we and our partners have to offer to ourselves, each other, and our families - must be a goal. From what I‘ve observed, professional women often take on an enormous burden when they try to do it all at work and at home, and end up feeling that they do nothing well. I’ve had many tearful conversations with talented and accomplished young women in academia who think that they must assume the lion’s share of responsibility for their children because this is what’s expected of them as women, while at the same time they know that they must secure as many grants and publish as many research papers as their male colleagues in order to be successful.

I’ve also had a more limited number of conversations with male colleagues who would like nothing more than to spend additional time with their children, but fear that their value as a parent is not fully appreciated by their wives or partners, and their reputation as a hard-working, committed professional will suffer if they work anything less than a 60-hour week.

Just as women have demanded equal consideration in the workplace, it is time to make sure that men are afforded equal consideration in areas that have traditionally been “owned” by women. Collectively, we must do more to frame discussions about work-life balance in terms of a broader, gender-inclusive context.

Seeking a more balanced life is not just a women’s issue. Balance is good for all of us, most of all our children, who will then hopefully grow up to be committed and caring members of society.  

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photo credit: adesigna

(Video) Moms Should "Lean In" to Fatherhood

NFI's Vince DiCaro was interviewed yesterday on Fox News Live's "On the Hunt" with Jonathan Hunt to discuss mothers and "leaning in" to fatherhood.

DiCaro points out that culture seems to tell mothers that they have to pick between career and motherhood. However, it's a good idea to consider a third option, and "lean in" to fatherhood.

Too often, mothers do most of the share of work in the home and fathers go to work—end of story. Perhaps mothers should consider supporting and encouraging, not discouraging, more father involvement. Several real-life examples are pointed out in this interview between DiCaro and Hunt. There are several ideas worth considering.

For instance, in some cases, moms simply do not trust the father to be involved. DiCaro says moms and dads need to "work together as parents." Moms can sometimes have a way of "knowing and doing all" when it comes to kids and the home. Therefore, in a sense, they set up a situation where they make the father feel he isn't needed. Then, he checks out, only focuses on his career, and does less at home and with the children.

DiCaro says, "If moms recommit themselves, in a sense, to strengthen the institution of fatherhood, it's only going to help them be better at their careers and be better moms." 

 


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A Scary Confluence of Trends

The following is a post from Christopher A. Brown, Executive Vice President of National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI). Interested in blogging for us? Email here.

A dangerous crossover has occurred in marriage and childbearing in the U.S.  

kidweddingkiss resized 600A recent report called Knot Yet documents the rise in the historic and still-climbing average age of first marriage at nearly 27 for women and 29 for men. This trend has benefitted women in helping them to reach their life goals and, for couples, reduced the risk of divorce. By delaying marriage, many women have had the opportunity to complete college and establish themselves in their careers before marching down the aisle. Research shows that couples who marry after their mid-twenties are less likely to divorce than are people who marry earlier.  

While that trend has benefits, there is another trend interacting with it that should put a scare into us all. The age at which men and women have their first child hasn’t kept pace with the average age of first marriage. Women give birth nearly a year, on average, before they marry (25.7 vs. 26.5). It is twentysomethings that have driven the increase in out-of-wedlock births to an all-time high of 48 percent of all births.  

As a father of two girls (ages 18 and 15), this is a scary confluence of trends. It increases the risk that my daughters will have children out of wedlock, that my grandchildren won’t have involved, responsible, committed fathers in their lives, and that my grandchildren will be at increased risk for a host of poor outcomes.  

According to a 2009 report by the non-partisan Pew Research Center, a majority of Americans don’t see anything wrong with unmarried childbearing despite their belief that it is bad for society (i.e. it has negative economic consequences). This disconnect between what is right and wrong and evidence is one of the major problems I have seen in my 13 years of work with NFI. As you’ve undoubtedly read many times in this blog and in publications from NFI, there are reams of evidence that having children out of wedlock is, on average, bad for children, mothers, fathers, and our society. And yet, we continue to see more and more children born without the benefit of marriage between their parents, the primary connection that societies have used for thousands of years to connect fathers to their children.        

So why does the disconnect persist? A primary reason, as noted in Knot Yet, is the decoupling of marriage and childbearing as most Americans have come to view marriage as a means to satisfy their desire for meaningful, life-long connection instead of as an institution for raising children and what children need to thrive. To be clear, my problem with this view is not that marriage should not satisfy someone’s desire for life-long connection—I can’t think of a better way to create such a connection. But focusing on that aspect of marriage to the detriment of marriage’s primary function of raising healthy children has become a recipe for disaster.  

The problem with this view is that it ignores the evidence that human biology, specifically the drive in humans to procreate, has not changed along with that view. As an anthropologist, I’ve learned that the interplay between culture change and human biology is not straightforward. In some cases, it can be positive or, at the very least, innocuous. Take the average height of humans, for example. As humans moved from living in nomadic tribes, where food was scarce and humans lacked knowledge of proper nutrition, to post-industrial societies, with 24/7 access to food and improved nutrition (particularly childhood nutrition), the average size for humans increased. (Much of this increase in height occurred in only the past 150 years.) On the other hand, as humans became more sedentary in post-industrial societies, obesity rates increased as did rates of type 1 and type 2 diabetes and other diseases related to a sedentary lifestyle.  

As long as people ignore the simple, indisputable fact that men and women have a biological drive to procreate that does not change—the oil in the water of the new view of marriage’s role in our lives—mothers, fathers, children, and our society will continue to pay a hefty price. Unless the age of puberty miraculously increases, we will continue to see an ever-widening gap between the time men and women start to feel their drive to procreate and the time they put the pieces in place that their children need to thrive—a gap that now spans more than a decade. The sad fact is that girls and boys are more driven to act on that drive when they grow up in homes without their fathers.  

What do I tell my girls? I will continue to tell them to delay sex until marriage for the simple reason that it is the right thing to do not only for them, but for everyone else. I want them to know that their actions have consequences for them and for us all.

 

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photo credit: clappstar

Wednesday Rundown

Much is happening at NFI. Sometimes you just have to make a list. Here we go...the stuff you need to know and may have missed while you were busy parenting... 

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Steubenville Rape Case: When "I Love You" is "Too Little, Too Late"

The internet and social media are buzzing this week with criticism of CNN's coverage of the Steubenville rape trial in which two juvenile males were convicted of raping a severely intoxicated 16-year-old girl.  Trent Mays, 17, was sentenced to two years in a juvenile detention facility and Ma'lik Richmond, 16, was sentence to one year.  Critics charge that CNN's approach is "pro-rapist" and that the anchors and correspondents are showing more compassion for the two perpetrators than they are for the victim.

There is plenty of commentary on CNN's angle on this story, so we won't address that here.  However, in CNN's coverage of the conviction of the two young men, they have unwittingly highlighted the "father factor" in crime that we at National Fatherhood Initiative have repeatedly pointed out. (See previous posts on the Sandy Hook shooting, the Aurora theater shooting, the DC snipers, the Tuscon shooting, and the Chardon High School shooting.)

In her report after the judge handed out the sentence, CNN correspondent Poppy Harlow recounts an emotional moment between Ma'lik Richmond, one of the convicted youth, and his father:

You know, something that came up throughout this sentencing. Ma’lik’s father had gotten up and spoke. Ma’lik has been living with guardians. His father, a former alcoholic, got into to a lot of trouble with the law, been in prison before.

And his father stood up and he told the court, ‘I feel responsible for this. I feel like I wasn’t there for my son.’ And before that, he came over to the bench where his son was sitting. He approached him, he hugged him and whispered in his ear.

And Ma’lik’s attorney said to us in a courtroom, I have never heard Ma’lik’s father before say, I love you. He’s never told his son that. But he just did today.

Read that again.  The first time Ma'lik heard his father utter the words "I love you" was the day that he was convicted as a sex offender and sentenced to juvenile detention. 

Ma'lik Richmond and his lawyerOn the one hand, it is wonderful that Mr. Richmond is affirming his unconditional love for his son at this moment when Ma'lik is emotionally devasted over the consequences of his actions for himself and for others.  (His statement to the family after his sentencing was very emotional and sorrowful.)  Harlow previously noted that when Ma'lik heard the sentence of the judge, he collapsed in the arms of his attorney and said "My life is over. No one is going to want me now.”  He needs to know that his dad still wants him, despite his actions.

However, this seem like "too little, too late." What if Ma'lik had grown up hearing his dad say "I love you" every day?  What if his dad had been a positive role model and an involved, responsible, and committed father?  Would Ma'lik have made the choices that led to his involvement in a drunken party and ugly rape of a young girl if he didn't grow up with an alcoholic father who committed crimes and was absent for part of his life because he was in jail?  What if Ma'lik's dad, while he was in jail, had the opportunity to participate in NFI's InsideOut Dad® program for incarcerated fathers and learn how to build a relationship with his son even while behind bars?

We don't know the whole story, of course, and it seems that Mr. Richmond realizes that his absence has contributed to his son's behavior and is now urging parents to be more involved in their children's lives.  Hopefully he'll start to be more present in his son's life now.  Unfortunately, the Richmonds are yet another fulfillment of the statistic that children with incarcerated fathers are seven times more likely to become incarcerated thesmelves

The Steubenville case is a tragedy for all involved; most certainly for the 16-year-old girl who was victimized.  If anything, the relationship between Ma'lik Richmond and his dad is a sobering reminder to fathers that their involvement in their children's lives shapes the decisions their children make. 

The words "I love you" are powerful - say them now, before it's too late.

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