Fathers are needed in children’s lives
WHEELING — On a sunny day at Oglebay Park’s Schenk Lake last week, Todd Wurtzbacher helped his 8-year-old daughter, Paige, catch her first fish.
The Wurtzbachers don’t plan to stop fishing anytime soon, as they enjoy spending time together the way a father and his child should.
“You don’t want to let the time go to waste,” Todd said while holding Paige. “They grow up really fast.”
“I love my dad,” Paige added.
As the Wurtzbachers and millions of other families celebrate Father’s Day today, many children in 2017 do not have loving relationships with their fathers. Some have no relationship at all, or they may not even know who their fathers are.
According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, a nonprofit organization founded in 1994, children who grow up without a relationship with their biological father are four times more likely to end up in poverty and two times more likely to drop out of high school. Girls who mature absent a relationship with their fathers are seven times more likely to become pregnant as teenagers than those who have relationships with their fathers, the organization states.
According to Youth Services System CEO John Moses and the Rev. Darrell Cummings, children who do not have a father figure in their lives should not give up hope.
“A father is like a leg on a chair. As long as a father is doing what he’s supposed to do, it is not noticed,” Cummings said. “Sometimes, we don’t fully appreciate them until they are not there.”
“We live in a society with many single parents. I have great admiration for fathers and mothers who are devoted to their children and do their very best,” Moses said. “Judging, blaming or excoriating absent parents serves no purpose. Divorce, death, abandonment, jail change things for many kids. But kids are resilient.”
Cummings said the majority of men in prison have no relationships with their fathers, with many of them not even knowing the identity of their fathers.
“If you are in this situation, it does not mean your life is doomed. It does mean you face challenges,” Cummings said.
Cummings said those who cannot have a relationship with their biological fathers should not give up hope. Whether it is a grandfather, an uncle, a neighbor or someone else in the community, someone will be willing to help.
“Find someone you can put your trust in who can be a mentor to you. Reach out into the community. There are a number of good men out there,” he said. “There are people out there who will help you.”
Moses said his organization, which offers a variety of services to disadvantaged children, offers a mentoring program that matches passionate and caring adults with kids who need a relationship.
“Whether you are talking about fathers, mothers, spouses, friends the quality of the relationship is what matters,” he said. “The universal message I have heard and my fellow staff have heard from kids who have nominated us ‘father or mother’ is this: ‘I knew you cared about me and you were there when I needed you.'”
Cummings said he is a father to three children who range in ages from 19 to 35. He credits his late father, Bishop Claude Cummings, for teaching him how to fill the same role.
“I thank God for my father,” Cummings said. “I didn’t always appreciate him at the time, but he was an excellent father. I wouldn’t be who I am without him.”