It’s more than a gut feeling. In fact, it’s become enough of a hot topic with the U.S. Census Bureau that they actively track the phenomenon. Some acknowledge it, some politicize it, but most try to ignore it. School principals and teachers, law enforcement and prison wardens, and religious leaders know it’s getting worse and has become an epidemic that is decimating America’s young people.

There is a niggling sense that there is something desperately wrong with the family. In 1999, the National Center for Fathering conducted a poll in which 72.2% of Americans think that fatherlessness is the greatest social issue America faces. According to the U.S. Census Bureau report, “Living Arrangements of Children under 18 Years 2010”, an estimated 24.7 million children live without their biological father. That’s a little over a third of America’s children. Millions more children have a dad physically present in the home, but who aren’t engaged emotionally.

According to another U.S. Census report, “Family Structure and Children’s Living Arrangements 2012”, 57.6% of African-American children, 31.2% Hispanic children, and 20.7% of white children live in homes absent their biological father. Eighty-seven percent of “post-war” children grew up in homes with both their biological parents. Today, only 68.1% will have the advantage of growing up in a home with both biological parents.

The effects of fatherlessness are devastating on the family. Children reared in a fatherless home are four times more likely to live in poverty; have a greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse; exhibit more aggressive behavior and twice as likely to attempt suicide; engage more in juvenile delinquency; and, have a greater occurrence of teenage pregnancy as well as marrying with less than a high school diploma.

Edward Kruk, PhD, wrote in “The Vital Importance of Paternal Presence in Children’s Lives” that “71% of high school dropouts are fatherless; fatherless children have more trouble academically, scoring poorly on tests of reading, mathematics, and thinking skills; children from father-absent homes are more likely to be truant from school, more likely to be excluded from school, more likely to leave school at age 16, and less likely to attain academic and professional qualifications in adulthood.”

However, when fathers are more engaged or have strong relationships with their children, their children’s educational performance is measurably better; their emotional and behavioral problems are considerably less; their marital relationships are healthier and more fulfilling as adults; and, adolescent girls exhibit less psychological distress in adulthood. In a 1996 Gallup Poll, it was concluded that “90.3 percent of Americans agree that fathers make a unique contribution to their children’s lives.”

Acknowledging the problem as a major societal issue is just the first step in reversing fatherlessness. Society must make a solemn commitment to value the unique role fathers play in their children’s lives and be willing to mentor children who are fatherless. Society and fathers must pass on the values, knowledge and skills that the next generation of fathers need to be successful as husbands and fathers.

“Manhood Journey”, developed and published by City on a Hill, is a program that teaches young boys the responsibilities of the traditional manhood model as head of the household, which includes their responsibilities to their wives as well as to their children. The Biblical model of manhood has almost faded from today’s society and yet, studies have found this model to be the most successful in creating strong, committed marriages and preserving the family.

The program for boys 10-14 years of age consists of six 6-week modules and is being hosted by St. Barnabas Anglican Church in Heber Springs beginning June 3rd, starting at 10:00am and ending with lunch every Saturday through August 5th.

“We need dads and mentors who are willing to dedicate a couple of hours on Saturday morning to intentionally be involved in their sons’ or other young men’s lives. We’d like to have enough volunteers so leaders can be rotated around and not have to make a commitment to every Saturday,” said Tom Bradshaw, Rector of St. Barnabas.

Tom Bradshaw is also a chaplain at the Newport men’s prison. He sees the lives destroyed because of fatherlessness every day. He has a heart to make a difference in young boys lives by teaching them what it means to be a man, not defined by the culture around them, but by the Word of God.

“We provide the resources and the training to teach young men who embark upon the “Manhood Journey” and how God intended man to be the protector, provider, teacher, and servant to the family unit. They will also learn to work together as a team to resolve conflict within and outside of the family,” said Bradshaw. “Fatherlessness is everyone’s problem. I think the “Manhood Journey” is a program that will begin to reverse this problem starting in our own community.”

If you’d like more information, to volunteer as a mentor, or if dad’s want to engage more with their sons through “Manhood Journey”, contact Tom Bradshaw at tjbradshaw@windstream.net or by calling 501-920-3842.