Put families first, one father at a time

Any doubt about how destructive the casual creation of life outside marriage is to men, women and children can be seen in the state’s desperate efforts to connect men and their children.

Once life is created by adults who have no particular committment to each other, it falls to the state to try to salvage the children. Otherwise, they follow the examples they know, examples that lead them to poor school performance and lifetimes of failure. For children of the unwed, especially among the underclass, life without a mother and father in the home is the rankest cruelty self-absorbed adults can inflict unintentionally.

Emotionally and financially, they enter life with two strikes against them.

The state, through the Georgia Fatherhood program, does its best to reconnect the absent parent, mostly men. It’s an uphill struggle. “These people face daunting obstacles to becoming parents,” said Department of Human Resources Commissioner B. J. Walker of participants in the program, about 11 percent of whom are women.

Keep in mind that the men and the few women in the Georgia Fatherhood program want to support their chiildren. “You have a lot of men out there who have various barriers, such as education, criminal records, substance abuse problems who really want to do the right thing,” said Keith Horton, who heads up the DHR program.

Of the 3,000 who will have been enrolled in this fiscal year, the hurdles are indeed daunting:

  • 82 percent have a criminal history.
  • 81 percent are without jobs.
  • 34 percent lack a high school diploma or GED.

It’s clear that such men would not be seen as attractive prospects for marriage. The compelling question is why, then, women would casually create human life with men they’d not view as marriageable? That is the cultural problem, one that opinion leaders in families, churches, communities, public life and in the media should take on.

Instead, we’re going the other way. Professor Jeffrey M. McCall of DePauw University, author of “Viewer Discrection Advised: Taking Control of Mass Media Influences,” noted in an AJC op-ed, that “network programmers are clearly intent on redefining how marriage is viewed in America.”

CBS, he writes, is creating a show tenatively called “Arranged Marriage,” in which young adults have spouses chosen for them by friends and family. Not pretend spouses. Spouses they’re expected to marry. Reality TV follows.

So we have on the one hand a state working with men who want to be fathers, who are willing to pay child support and, many of them, to connect emotionally with their childdren, while television demeans the institution that would have served the best interests of both men and women, but most of all children. It’s insanity.

It’s insanity that we pretend marriage doesn’t much matter and that it’s fodder for no-value entertainment.

The Fatherhood program in Georgia is frantically trying to reconnect. It incudes training to help the adults find work. It works with adults in prison to teach men how to be fathers and it includes paternity testing to remove all doubt that the children are theirs.

It also includes something that undoubtedly means a great deal to young girls — and should to the fathers as well. That is father/daughter dances that have been held in places like DeKalb and Cordele.

“We don’t just focus on child support finances,” said Horton, “there’s an emotional bond to be created there as well. ”

Horton and other state officials can try to perform miracles in connecting men and women to their children.

But they are able to help only a few at the time, after the children have suffered.
That adults discount marriage is harmful to their children. That television treats the institution as a game is a national disgrace.

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April 22nd, 2009
8:16 am