Reconnecting families with fathers

By Edward Jennings, Jr.

Edward Jennings Jr.

Edward Jennings Jr.

The nation’s Father’s Day celebrations over this past weekend provided many of us a special opportunity to reunite and recognize the bonds of remembrance, love and respect for our fathers. While the actual initial origin of Father’s Day may not be clear, the benefits that celebrating and recognizing the contributions of fathers cannot be forgotten.

As a recent father, for the very first time, I appreciate the role and responsibilities that fatherhood has in the lives of raising children who are our nation’s future.

Last year HUD asked the nation’s public housing authorities to sponsor a one-day Father’s Day event in mid-June and more than 200 public housing authorities participated. An estimated 22,000 fathers, children, mothers and many others participated in events last year.

This year more than 300 local housing authorities across the U.S. held Father’s Day 2012 events. In the Southeast region alone more than 135 public housing authorities in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Puerto Rico participated.

HUD is also facilitating ideas that will bring fathers and their children together more than just on Father’s Day, but to make that connection throughout the year.

The majority of public housing households with children are headed by single women who earn less than $9,000 annually. While fathers are often present in and around public housing developments, most of them are not officially on the household’s lease and are often disconnected from services that could lead to economic stability for themselves and their children.

This month public housing authorities across the Southeast and the nation held a wide range of exciting events for Father’s Day– from fun activities for the family to job training resources for the dads – and most importantly—the events brought together thousands of participants.

No matter the variety of events the goal was the same: To Connect Fathers and their Children.

While single mothers have done and continue to do a magnificent job in raising children alone, studies show that the children suffer greatly when there is no father present.

Children, who live absent their biological fathers, are, on average at least 2 to 3 times more likely to use drugs; to experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems; be victims of child abuse; and to engage in criminal behavior than their peers who live with married biological or adoptive parents. What’s more a child with a nonresident father is 54 percent more likely to be poorer than his or her father.

Reconnecting families and fathers remains a worthy imperative as these are indeed challenging and difficult times.

We applaud the public housing authorities for their efforts to work with HUD to connect fathers with their children and to help provide a brighter future for our nation’s youth and families. We also want to recognize and thank fathers who were able to participate and contribute to this most worthy effort.

Through these collaborative and innovative efforts family bonds are strengthened and the light of hope for families shines brighter.

Edward Jennings Jr. is Southeast regional administrator for U.S. Housing and Urban Development.

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