LIMA — Father. Dad. Daddy. Papa.
Whatever they may be called, this is the day in which they are honored. For years, fathers have enjoyed breakfast in bed, neckties, cards and other gifts on this holiday, made official by presidential proclamation in 1972.
However, an increasing number of households find themselves without fathers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 64 percent of children ages 0 to 17 lived with two married parents, down from 77 percent in 1980. Also in 2012, 24 percent of U.S. children lived with only their mothers, not having their father in the home. Looking at Lima, 14 percent of all households featured a female householder with children under 18 and no husband present in 2010.
According to Dr. Victor Wei, a child psychiatrist at the Family Resource Center of Northwest Ohio, less emphasis is being placed on the necessity of a father, specifically, in the home, as children can often look to other sources for affirmation and guidance.
“I remember reading somewhere that for a child to be successful, all they require is having one adult that’s crazy about them,” he said. “Whether that’s a mother, a father, a coach, a grandmother, or whatever, it transcends the requirement of being a mother or a father. It just has to be someone who really values that child and the child’s potential.”
However, according to a 2004 study published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence, Cynthia C. Harper of the University of California San Fransiscoand Sara S. McLanahan of Princeton University, not having a father in the home was connected with higher rates of incarceration.
“Controlling for income and all other factors, youths in father-absent families still had significantly higher odds of incarceration than those from mother-father families,” the study said.
Maj. Jim Baker of the Lima Police Department has also noted this common thread in many of the young people the department has arrested over the years.
“If you look at men in prison, a majority of them have fathers who were either completely or partially absent,” he said. “Fathers have the potential to be some of the most influential people in not only sons’, but also daughters’ lives. They have great influence, and for a father not to be a part of that can have a great impact, and we see a lot of that.”
Baker, also a pastor at In Faith Ministries, society has diminished the necessity of fathers to the point where they now have the stereotype of being dim-witted or lazy.
“The role of fathers has been diminished and it’s almost become a point of joking,” he said. “He’s the stupid, incompetent one who the mom or the kids have to get out of trouble.”
Baker wanted to make it clear, however, that emphasizing the need for fathers should not diminish in any way the vital role mothers play in the development of a child.
“This is not an issue of worth of value,” he said. “It’s an issue of different roles and the importance of them. It’s okay to have different roles for mothers and fathers.”
To help make up for this increasing lack of present fathers, some churches and other social groups have been working to eitehr provide male mentors for fatherless children or help influence young fathers to make time for their children. Heartbeat of Lima has been hosting a group session for young fathers using a program called “The Dad Difference,” and according to group leader Bob Buss, the five men involved are making a concerted effort to take their role as fathers seriously.
“These guys are wholeheartedly into it,” he said. “They’re just eager to learn, and that makes it easy for me.”
One of the participants is Paul Beery, a 21-year-old father of triplets. For him, going into fatherhood for the first time, not to mention with three children, was a daunting task, and Buss’ mentorship, along with the resources from this program have helped provide a framework for him to become the kind of father he wants to be for his sons.
“This program has given me the ideals of how to properly raise a child and how to love, care and take time out of my day to care for them,” he said. “I want my family to be the most important thing I take care of.”
Along with being there for his children emotionally, Beery noted that this program even helps him take care of his children’s phyiscal needs.
“One of the classes a couple of weeks ago taught me the basics of changing diapers and how to wash a child,” he said.
When asked what message he would want to share with other young men who are facing fatherhood, by choice or otherwise, his response even had a parental tone.
“If you have kids and you don’t step up and take care of them, you’re not a real man, simple as that,” he said. “If you’re going to be a dad, I would recommend this program 100 percent. You need to be there for your kids.”