By: Roy Douglas Malonson
During these times of unemployment, racial injustice, and instability within families, the need for fatherhood, especially Black fatherhood, is greater than ever. Millions of children across America live in households without a physically present father, and millions more live in a household with emotionally absent fathers. But why is this?
According to Fathers.com, 57.6% of Black children, 31.2% of Hispanic children, and 20.7% of white children live in homes absent of their biological fathers. The United States Census Bureau reports that 1 in 4 children (18.3 million children) across the country live without a biological, step, or adoptive father in the home. Children without fathers are four times more likely to be impoverished, seven times more likely to experience teen pregnancy, have a greater likelihood of behavioral issues, are more likely to commit crimes and be incarcerated, and face a greater chance of abusing drugs and alcohol.
In the Black community specifically, single-parent homes are an epidemic and need to be addressed, but it’s important not to fall prey to misinformation and stereotypes surrounding Black fathers and their involvement in their children’s lives.
First, let’s look at how it all began.
As Dr. Umar Johnson so poignantly pointed out, the attack of the Black father and destruction of the Black family was “created by design.” We were married and in holy unions in Africa, remained each other’s rocks during slavery and reconstruction – with the Black man always being head of the household – primarily up until the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. After that, the United States government set its site on neutralizing the Black power base – which, of course, was the Black family. Independent Black families were the financial backers of leaders like King, Marcus Garvey and movements like the Freedom Riders, and the government wanted to shut us down.
In the 1970’s, Whites (the government) began to de-industrialize the Black communities, shutting down our factories and other independent businesses, and even took programs out of the high schools that taught Black students how to work with their hands or be skilled laborers (plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics, welders, carpenters, etc.). Everything became focused on obtaining a college degree, which even after gaining one, Blacks were still grossly underpaid compared to their White counterparts.
Without the “skills that paid the bills” Black men began to make less, therefore feeling less valuable and putting a strain on the household. Johnson called it the “economic castration of the Black man.”
Add another layer to that. Drugs were introduced to the Black community, and trust me, WE did not bring them there. The drug epidemic killed off our leaders and infiltrated much-needed parties and causes like the Black Panthers. The decade of the 70’s was the decade of making the Black man “irrelevant” to the Black woman.
There is no other culture in the world where the women “outrank” the men financially but in the Black community, women now out-earn and out-educate their mates. Do you see now that this was created by design?
Then the 1990’s came, and the politicians began making laws that locked up Black men disproportionately for crimes that should have been misdemeanors, at best, or have lesser sentencing. The “three strikes and you’re out” laws took so many Black men away from the children, who have been doomed for decades.
Without strong male role models and “guilty” mothers, Black sons and daughters were raised with less structure and more problems for their futures.
Sadly, many Black teen boys today can’t tie a tie, nor change a tire, and many Black girls can’t sew or cook, as their great grandmothers could. Why? Because the working moms either can’t or don’t have the know-how nor the time to teach them, and our values are getting further away from what we once knew.
In 1965, sociologist and Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan published a widely criticized report called The Negro Family: The Case For National Action. This report claimed that increasing rates of “out-of-wedlock” births and single-mother homes among African Americans signaled the coming destruction of Black families and these trends were to blame for many of the issues facing the Black community in America.
This report and many other arguments that use the same points as Moynihan’s study perpetuate the idea that racial disparity in education, employment, income, incarceration, and healthcare are not caused by structural racism, but the “absence” of Black fathers.
IT IS TIME FOR THE BLACK MEN TO RETURN HOME!
Studies show we are getting there, but we have a long way to go.
According to a 2013 report by the CDC, Black dads—whether they live with their children, or not—are more actively involved in their children’s lives today than their counterparts of other races. For example, the CDC reports that Black fathers who live with their children and who don’t live with their children are more likely than fathers of other races to provide physical care (bathe, diaper, feed) for their young children, read to their children, and help their children with their homework—all on a daily basis—than fathers of other races who also cohabitate with their kids.
Surveys of low-income mothers of all races echo the results of this report with a 2018 study of non-marital births finding that mothers revealed that Black fathers “shared responsibilities more frequently and displayed more effective co-parenting than Hispanic and White fathers.”
Even with studies revealing that Black fathers have a growing presence in their children’s lives, there is still so much work to be done to decrease the rate of single-parent households within the Black community. There are still an alarming amount of Black children who do not have relationships with their fathers, and an even more alarming amount of children across all races who do not have fathers in their households.
And you know what – IT IS OK TO GET THE HELP YOU NEED!
The DePelchin Children’s Center’s DAD Program aims to help fathers of every race, ethnicity and walk of life co-parent and provide resources and counseling to promote and support fathers.
Q: What does your organization do?
A: DePelchin Children’s Center is a non-profit organization that was founded in the Houston area in 1892. Since that time, the agency has served children and families as an accredited foster care and adoption agency and through programs that focus on child abuse prevention and keeping families together.
Q: How did DePelchin Children’s Center begin working with fathers?
A: DePelchin has provided general parenting services for over 25 years. Over the last 10 years, we have seen outstanding growth in father engagement in our counseling and parenting programs. Historically, these programs have been tailored to work with a primary parent or main parent contact which is often
listed as “the mother.” While the programs encourage father involvement, they have not been set up in a way to fully support, promote, and engage fathers in a way that meets them where they desire to be.
Q: What can a father expect to receive from the program?
A: Dads participating in the program will attend a group once a week with other fathers or co-parents. The groups are held virtually through Zoom or face-to-face in the community. Fathers who are interested in improving their relationship with their co-parent can participate together to grow and support the changing dynamics of a family and the parenting relationship. The program recognizes that group support is important, but each father may have their own individual needs. One-on-one case management is also provided to support fathers in their personal growth and goal planning, as well as to provide supportive resources that can improve common stressors that many families face. We provide gift card incentives for completing program mid-points and for graduation from the program.
Q: Who can participate in the program?
A: Fathers and father figures ages 18 and up. This can include biological fathers, stepfathers, foster-fathers, adoptive fathers, and anyone else who is parenting a child. We also provide a co-parenting group for fathers who would like to participate with a co-parenting partner.
Q: Where is the program offered?
A: We serve Harris County and the following target areas of Spring Branch, Greenspoint, Sharpstown, Gulfton, and Alief. We are currently providing both virtual and face-to-face group options. If a provider is interested in hosting us for a group class, they can contact the Program Coordinator at 281-773-6704.
Q: Is there a cost for the program?
A: The program is funded through a grant provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families and is offered at no cost to everyone.
So, you know where we are today, you know how we got here… now TAKE CONTROL of where we are going. Black dads, keep moving upward, as the studies show, and keep being proactive in your children’s lives. If you did not have the leadership you needed growing up, remember, community organizations like DePelchins is providing resources to help, and we definitely recommend seeking out a mentor or a “wise father figure” in your community or family to go to for guidance. The battle is not over. We are at war to save our children.