June 15, 2014

South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families board chair writes about benefits of helping fathers be better fathers

South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families Board Chair Bill Bradshaw wrote a guest column for The State that appeared on Father’s Day about the importance of helping fathers be better fathers. The center is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System that supports six fatherhood programs in 12 communities across the state while promoting father-friendly policies and practices, and helping to erase society's negative stereotype of unwed, low-income dads.

As seen in The State:

We all benefit by helping fathers be better fathers

Columbia, SC — Two quick facts about fathers and Father's Day:

  • Barbara Walters recently revealed her most dependable method of getting her interview subjects to cry on camera: “I … asked people about their fathers.”
  • Mother's Day is the busiest holiday for phone calls, but Father's Day is historically the one day on which the most collect calls are made—by children who expect their fathers to accept the charges.

Our fathers are profoundly important to us, and we depend on them to be there. 

Yet far too many children—one out of every three nationally—don't have fathers in their lives. This is a tragedy for all of society. Growing up without a dad leaves a void that may never be filled.

I believe God designed us to need both a mother and a father in our home, loving each other and pouring their different traits and wisdom and experience into us—loving us, providing for us, supporting us, keeping us safe. 

Few doubt the importance of a mother. But fathers also bring something precious and irreplaceable. Children without fathers are more likely to: 

  • Commit crimes, and end up in prison.
  • Get pregnant in their teens.
  • Marry with less than a high school diploma, an almost certain recipe for poverty.
  • Abuse drugs.

Children whose fathers are involved in their lives are more likely to make A's in school, and even to avoid obesity.

But it's one thing to say that all children should have involved fathers. It's another to reverse the effects of the disintegration of the American family. Families break up every day, and in South Carolina, 41 percent of children are born to unwed mothers. 

Single moms deserve all the credit we can give them for their courage and devotion to their children. They also deserve our help, and society has come to their aid in many ways. 

Too little has been done to help fathers. 

Society has taken a punitive approach to see that moms receive child support from men who are called “deadbeat dads.” But labeling fathers, and throwing them in jail when they fail to respond positively, can sometimes do more harm than good. 

Reversing the effects of these destructive trends is daunting, but not impossible. We're doing it here in South Carolina. 

In 2002, the Sisters of Charity Foundation, established in South Carolina by the same order of nuns who operate Providence Hospital, established the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families, which supports six fatherhood programs in 12 counties. 

This ministry didn't find deadbeat dads, but a lot of dead-broke dads—and broken in ways other than financially. They are excluded, despised, harsh on themselves and lacking in confidence that they can still be good fathers. 

Our programs help fathers rebuild themselves even as they rebuild their relationships with their children. We help them engage with their families in positive ways, and prepare them for good jobs so they can contribute materially. 

Last year, we served 1,623 non-custodial parents of 3,539 children. We helped 450 fathers gain employment, enabling them to pay $1,008,635 in child support. Through our Jobs Not Jail program, we saved taxpayers $3.6 million in incarceration costs. 

Just this past week, we embarked on a project with the S.C. Department of Social Services' Integrated Child Support Services Division that could revolutionize the way child support is handled across the nation. Operation Work is a pilot project—one of only eight across the nation—that will work to remove barriers to dads paying their child support. 

The Center for Fathers and Families builds stronger families by helping men be better fathers. Fathers matter, today and every day. 

Mr. Bradshaw is a former University of South Carolina quarterback and chairman of the board of the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families.


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From its Cleveland headquarters, the Sisters of Charity Health System provides oversight, leadership and strategic direction to more than 20 organizations responding to community needs in Canton and Cleveland, Ohio, and South Carolina.

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