A UMNS Feature By Kathy L. Gilbert*
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Children living without fathers are more likely to be suspended from school, drop out, be treated for an emotional or behavioral problem, commit suicide as adolescents and experience child abuse or neglect, according to the National Fatherhood Initiative.
In 1960, less than 8 million children were living in families in which the father was absent. Today the number of children living in fatherless homes exceeds 24 million, which translates into one out of three U.S. children.
Millie Carter, coordinator for the South Carolina Annual (regional) Conference's Fostering Families program, believes deeply that every child should grow up with a loving father.
"I had a super dad when I grew up," Carter says. "He wasn't a perfect man, but as far as being a daddy, he was the best daddy in the world for me. I can't imagine a child not having that."
Carter has been working with the South Carolina Department of Social Services and the annual conference to make the Fatherhood Initiative possible.
The initiative meets every other week at St. Matthew United Methodist Church in Camden, S.C. Among other topics, men talk about communication, anger management and expressing their feelings to their partners and their children.
Carter recalls hearing one father say after a meeting that he learned how to tell his son he loved him. "It never occurred to him before because his father never said that to him," she says.
The Rev. James P. Smith, founder and director of Fatherhood Initiative, says supporting and equipping dads is a rewarding challenge.
Smith says an equipped father is one who has committed to learn the skills necessary to be a positive role model to his child or children. The conference is working to expand the program to Lee County, one of the poorest counties in the conference. For more information, contact Carter at South Carolina Conference, the United Methodist Church, 4908 Colonial Drive, Columbia, S.C. 29203-6070; phone: (803) 786-9486. Or visit www.umcsc.org/outreach/fosterfam/fosterfam.htm online.
Carter uses Malachi 4:6 (RSV) as her inspiration. The verse says a prophet will come, "And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse." # # # *Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer. Her story originally appeared in the May-June issue of Interpreter magazine, published by United Methodist Communications.