On June 18, more than half of America's 70 million children will not be able to truly celebrate Father's Day because they are the victims of Father Absence.

Today, 38 million children -- more than half of our 70 million children under age 18 -- are the victims of Father Absence. America is the world's leader in fatherless families. That statistic alone says more about the current state of American society and its future than any other.

First, there are the 27.3 million kids who suffer from physical father absence. Dad will not be there to tuck them into bed tonight, nor any night, simply because he does not live in the house. Then there are the 10.7 million kids whose father still lives in the same home but who is not there in any meaningful emotional way. This is the emotional form of father absence -- as potentially deadly in its consequences as the physical form.

America's secret
Father Absence adversely affects the lives of millions of children from all races in American society. It's also a leading cause of many of America's most serious social ills. But it remains America's quiet little secret. It is rarely mentioned in the press or by political leaders. It isn't even mentioned very often by child welfare advocates.

Those who are most concerned about the welfare of America's children should focus on the issue of Father Absence because it affects virtually everything about a child: their self-esteem, how well they do in school, their sexuality and physical relationships, their basic knowledge of right and wrong, their health, their economic status. Ample studies provide incontrovertible evidence as to the powerful impact of a father on his child in all these ways and many others.

Father Absence also has a profound impact upon American society, affecting violence, crime, child poverty, teenage pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, teen suicide. All of these social ills are fueled by the absence of a father in a child's life.

Powerful influence
It all comes down to one indisputable fact: fathers are one of the most powerful influences in a child's life. While social research has persuasively documented this, it is the voices and actions of America's children that provide the most powerful testimony:
  • Julie, age 16: "I don't like my dad very much. Not once has he really hugged me. Rarely has he told me he loves me. I want so badly to scream and let out all of this hurt. I feel so alone."

  • Virtually none of the young people in prison have a good word to say about their father (but they usually still have very deep feelings about him).

  • In Robert Bly's work, he found that many adult males carry around a deep "father hunger."

  • Workaholics across the country are still trying to please or impress dad (even, for many, after dad has died).

Yes, fathers do have a powerful influence on a child's life. So if we want to do something really constructive this Father's Day, we can dedicate ourselves to combating and reversing the rising trend of Father Absence.
Expressed as a positive goal, we can dedicate ourselves to helping fulfill the marvelous vision laid out by the prophet Malachi in the final verse of the Old Testament: to turn the hearts of fathers to their children.

Turning of hearts
How can such a "turning" occur?
  • First, we must motivate and encourage fathers by making them aware of the tremendous father power they possess: power for good or for bad in their children's lives. As they come to understand that they are carving out a father legacy, they can create one that lives on in very constructive ways instead of destructive ways.

  • We must train fathers to be great dads. Consider this paradox. Males receive at least 150 hours of training in many subjects such as algebra and physics, most of which they will never use again after they leave high school. Most males then become fathers, a tremendous responsibility they will have day in and day out for at least 18 years, and for many up to 25 years or more. And how much training do they receive for this awesome responsibility? For the vast majority of fathers, it is zero hours.

    America needs widespread grassroots training to motivate and train fathers how to be good dads to their kids. The nonprofit organization Great Dads is providing precisely this type of training to thousands of dads in its "6 Basics of Being a Great Dad" seminars. These training efforts are complemented by a number of other organizations, and are sorely needed if we as a nation are to begin reversing the rising trend of father absence.

Consider what would happen as fathers across America turn their hearts to their kids. America would see a significant decline in crime and violence, teen pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse, child poverty, teen suicide, and many more social ills. But most importantly, we would see the lives of millions of kids transformed. These children would lead much happier lives, for the very simple reason that they have a dad who really loves them, cares for them, and is committed to their long-term welfare.

Let's work toward making Father's Day 2001 a day where more of our kids can celebrate their fathers. And each succeeding Father's Day would include more of America's children as the turning of fathers' hearts toward their children continues to take place--one dad at a time. It is a vision well worth pursuing.


Dr. Robert Hamrin is the founder and President of Great Dads, a national nonprofit organization that provides training seminars to fathers. He is also known as "Dr. Bob" at the Great Dads Gathering Place. Click here to email him directly.