Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation

David Hirsch

RAISING THE FATHERHOOD BAR OF EXPECTATIONS Every child has a basic human need to be loved, cared for and protected. Sadly four out of 10 (or an estimated 24m) children are growing up across America in fatherless homes. The epidemic of father absence has been rippling through society with increasing intensity the past few generations. The primary trends that have contributed to what’s known as the ”breakdown of the family” and the rise in “single parent (mom head-of-household) families” are: - a shift in traditional values and diminution of the importance of fathers, - advances in gender roles accompanied by the misperception dads are somehow disposable (think Murphy Brown), and - well intended social programs which have exacerbated the problem. Thank God for the strength and adaptability of most women. These mostly single-moms are – like soldiers on the battlefields at Gettysburg – heroically fighting against all odds. Lincoln was famously quoted as saying: “you cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” Most of our lives revolve around expectations. As a society the primary expectation of fathers is to meet their financial obligations, which for non-custodial dads equates to paying child support. We need to raise the fatherhood bar of expectation from merely financial to also include being present: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. A solution to the problem is engaging all fathers in the educational lives of their children. Long-term longitudinal research conducted by the United States Department of Education documents: when both parents are involved in their child’s education, educational outcomes increase and societal ills decrease. In other words: what is good for the child is also good for society.