Where Have All The Fathers Gone?
By Ron Hauenstein
I’ll call him Lance, although that isn’t his real name. Lance is a young man I know who recently celebrated his 18th birthday. He grew up with little contact with his biological father, who is now dead. Lance was raised by a single mom. He has also attended public schools where the vast majority of the teachers and staff are female. This poses a practical and critical question: Where does Lance go to find a healthy male role model? Where does Lance go to learn about the role of a father? And when, where and how does Lance find the opportunity to express his own masculinity in healthy ways?
On his 18th birthday, my wife and I threw Lance a birthday party. As part of the celebration, we bought him a suit, necktie, dress shirt and shoes. But there was more. We decided to include a manhood ceremony (my Jewish friends might even compare it to a Bar Mitzvah “coming-of-age” ceremony). Why? We wanted to create a specific moment in time that Lance could always look back on and say, “That’s the day I became a man.” We also gave him “a father’s blessing,” speaking words over him that he had never heard from his father.
Things have changed in our culture over the past generation or so. When I was growing up in rural Eastern Washington in the late 1950’s, everyone seemed to have a dad in the home. Divorce was rare. So was teen pregnancy. If a guy did get a girl pregnant out of wedlock, he married her, sometimes the next day! Our society operated by an unwritten code of honor that real men provide for and protect the children they brought into the world. Because of that unwritten code, the out-of-wedlock birth rate in 1960 was 6%. Today it is 40%. Yes, things have changed. What was once rare is now the norm, and our culture is paying a heavy price. When and how did it become widely accepted for a man to walk away from his children and his family? But more importantly, what, if anything, can be done to change this destructive behavior? Welcome to the Spokane Fatherhood Initiative.
The Spokane Fatherhood Initiative (SpoFI) was founded in 2016 in the belief that fatherlessness is at the root of a wide range of problems facing us today. Fatherlessness affects every employer, every school classroom, every cop, every social worker, every church, every homeless shelter and every taxpayer. Consider just this one statistic: 75% of boys coming through the state foster care system will end up in prison. How could the input from a healthy father change that one statistic? There’s more, but I think you get the point. But throughout popular culture today, fathers are not held in high regard, or even regarded as either important or necessary.
In his book, Fatherless America, author David Blankenhorn declares, “In short, the key for men is to be fathers. The key for children is to have fathers. The key for society is to create fathers.” The Spokane Fatherhood Initiative (SpoFI) seeks to restore the honor, dignity, and value of fathers in our families and in our community. And, as the birthplace of Father’s Day, Spokane seems like the perfect place for this movement to take root and grow. By offering training opportunities, networking and conferences, SpoFI seeks to create a new cultural climate of supporting families and fathers. We want to strengthen foster care and adoption programs, to support initiatives to build better dads and men and to encourage mentoring programs for fatherless kids. Our vision is to see God’s heart for fathers and families restored in a way that transforms our society. Join us and begin to look at community issues (homelessness, human trafficking, poverty, and more) through the lens of fatherlessness. Your involvement can begin with something as simple as having lunch with a child at school once a week. Where it goes from there is up to you! Visit our website or Facebook page to learn more.
Ron Hauenstein is the Founder and President of The Spokane Fatherhood Initiative.