The Importance of a Father
Who is your father?
If you are a child growing up in a developing country, especially within Africa, this is one of the first things you’re asked when meeting someone. It’s a question that haunts the ears of many orphans within these countries who are left unsure of who they are, where they belong, or what their purpose is.
These are critical questions to the life of every person, regardless of their lifestyle or situations. Who we are is firmly rooted in our childhood, our experiences, and our families. Everything in the past, present, or future molds us as people and our families are fundamental to our identity…especially our fathers.
It’s common to see strong, godly women caring for orphans and while we are thankful that children have mothers to care for them, mothers are only half of the equation. There is a pandemic across the world – more and more fathers are becoming absent within the family. And this is not only true in developing nations.
- 23.6% of US children (17.4 million) lived in father absent homes in 2014
- In 2011, children living in female-headed homes with no spouse present had a poverty rate of 47.6%. This is over four times the rate for children living in married couple families.
* Sources listed below
Regardless of the country, this absence of fathers in homes around the world brings about tragic and drastic effects:
- Disengaged and remote interactions of fathers with infants is a predictor of early behavior problems in children and can lead to externalizing behaviors in children as early as age 1.
- Fatherless children are twice as likely to drop out of school.
- 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes – 32 times the average.
- 71% of pregnant teenagers lack a father.
- 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes.
** Sources listed below
If you have any experience working in orphan care, you know that it is an emotional, distressing, and exhausting calling. We are all broken people and the wounds abound in poverty alleviation and development. While mothers are a necessary part of excellent orphan care, they do not replace the role of a father. Fatherlessness will only continue through generations unless something – rather, someone – interrupts the pattern.
When it comes to best practices in orphan care, a family has to be the answer. When we look at the biblical design of a family, it is clearly described as a man and women joined together in a monogamous, covenant relationship. Both psychological research and biblical teaching confirms that the best practice for orphan care includes a healthy, stable family with both a mother and father who are committed to the child for life. This extends beyond their childhood – through graduation, marriage, childbirth, and old age.
We urge you not to forget the importance of a father figure in a child’s life. Search them out in the communities your orphan care ministry serves. Pray for them to stand up against the pressures of this life and remain committed to their families. Figure out ways to support vulnerable families and help carry the heavy burden that typically weighs down fathers, especially in poor countries. Our earthly fathers are called to represent our heavenly Father and that role should not easily be overlooked.
*US Census Bureau, 2015] Living arrangements of children under 18 years and marital status of parents, by age, sex, race, and hispanic origin and selected characteristics of the child for all children: 2014. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Census Bureau.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (2012). Information on poverty and income statistics: A summary of 2012 current population survey data. Retrieved from: http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/12/PovertyAndIncomeEst/ib.cfm