Nurturing fathers — what they do, why they are important


By Bret Burrows

Special to The SUN

It was anthropologist Margaret Meade who said, “The supreme test of any civilization is whether it can socialize men by teaching them to be fathers.”

The latest census data shows that over 25 million children in the United States will awaken each morning with no father in their home (and often, in their lives).

In addition, a significant number of children whose fathers are present in their lives have a less than close relationship with their fathers, or what might be called emotionally absent or unavailable fathers.

This gives serious cause for concern about the roles fathers are playing today in the lives of children and families. The result of fatherless homes is tragic for both children and families and is a not-so-positive testament to how our society is standing up to the test of time.

According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, virtually every major social ill from violent crime to drug and alcohol abuse, truancy to teen pregnancy, and even suicide has been linked to father absence. The majority of prisoners, juvenile detention inmates, and high school dropouts come from fatherless homes.

Since 1960, juvenile crime has increased sixfold and at the same time the number of children living apart from the biological dads has also increased dramatically during that same time period, from 17 percent in 1960 to more than 40 percent today.

President Bill Clinton stated in 1995 that, “The single biggest social problem in our society may be the growing absence of fathers from their children’s homes, because it contributes to so many other social problems.” Every U.S. president since has made similar statements, including President Obama in his recent address, but the problem persists.

I don’t think anyone would disagree that father absence is a major concern in America, but not many of us know what we can do to help with such a monumental problem.

One answer: Encourage fathers in Archuleta County to learn to be nurturing fathers.

Mark Perlman, M.A., author of “The Nurturing Fathers Program,” defines a nurturing father as, “A man who provides guidance, love, and support to enhance the development and growth of children for whom he cares.”

In addition to the traditional role of fathers as being both provider and protector (which without a doubt is very important), there are contributions that only a father can provide in his parenting role that have very positive results for his children. Fathers model for boys how to be men. Fathers show daughters how to relate to men, and to feel deserving of love and respect from the men in their lives. Fathers teach their children these lessons by the way they live their lives, either as a positive male role model or not.

The undeniable conclusion from the large amount of available research and evidence as well as from what so many of us know in our hearts to be true is that children and families greatly benefit from the presence and active participation of a nurturing father.

Enroll now to join us for our next Nurturing Fathers workshop, starting in April. Call Bret at 264-2182, Ext. 227. Help make Pagosa Springs a better place.

Pathways to Responsible Fatherhood is a program of the Archuleta County Department of Human Services and the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The overall goal of the program is to encourage and support local fathers to be the best, most involved fathers possible. Services can range from advocacy and support through various trials and barriers to skills building classes to employment support services. Feel free to contact Bret Burrows at Archuleta County DHS for more information. The children of Archuleta County are counting on you.