Home > Uncategorized > Fatherless Children Contribute to Poverty, Challenges in Public Education

Fatherless Children Contribute to Poverty, Challenges in Public Education

On Fathers Day, NPR reporter Claudio Sanchez interviewed author Alan Blankstein on the impact of fatherless children on poverty rates and public education… and the results of fatherlessness are devastating. Among the findings cited in the interview:

  • 24.7 million kidsin the U.S. don’t live with a biological father.
  • Children are four-times more likely to be poor if the father is not around. And we know that poverty is heavily associated with academic success. [Fatherless kids] are also twice as likely to drop out…seven out of 10 high school dropouts are fatherless.
  • Girls are twice as likely to suffer from obesity without the father present. They’re four-times more likely to get pregnant as teenagers. Boys are more likely to act out, which is why we’re more aware [of how they’re affected], but if a young girl is imploding, we don’ t see it.
  • The overall trend [of fatherlessness] is up for all families. So we’re looking at a 20 percent rate among white fathers who are absent in their children’s lives, 31 percent for Hispanics, 57 percent for African-Americans.

There is clear evidence that the absence of a father contributes to the ill-being of children. But it is unclear what action schools can take when this is the case. At the end of the interview Mr. Sanchez asks Mr. Blankstein if he is aware of any effective interventions. Here is Mr. Blankstein’s response:

I don’t see a lot happening in schools. I think [successful] interventions are happening in a random way, at best. Like the case of John Marshall Elementary in Philadelphia. They’re working with a [city-wide] commission on families to include fathers in promoting the academic well-being of students. Most schools don’t recognize or engage fathers [who’ve been absent].

There’s a reason “most schools don’t recognize or engage fathers (who’ve been absent)”… it’s because schools do not have the resources to do so! Indeed, most schools serving children raised in poverty lack the resources to provide counseling to fatherless children let alone the resources to track down absent fathers. Complicating matters even further, schools are often caught in disputes between parents who are separated, needing to decline requests from fathers or mothers who are under court orders to remain out of the lives of their children and, as noted above, often incapable of providing the needed counseling the children need in situations like this.

As is true in so many cases involving societal ills, schools are expected to do more than they are capable of and then criticized for the consequences.

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