For the past eight years, we have held an annual baby shower for expectant families in Marion County. Two years ago, we shifted from a “baby shower” format to a “Connection Café” for new parents, hoping to draw some of the fathers, as well as the expectant mothers.

If you have not attended one of these, they are impressive in that the new parents are given information on important topics new parents need to know about by highly educated, well informed professionals. And they get the items new parents will need when they first bring their baby home, for example baby thermometers, diapers, wipes, pack and plays; and the list goes on.

But last year, we added a session strictly for fathers. And it was eye-opening for me, as well as the fathers who attended. Did you know that children in homes without a father are four times more likely to grow up in poverty, seven times more likely to become pregnant as a teen, and two times more likely to dropout of school? And those are just effects children with absent fathers can face.

Our presenter sat down with the fathers that attended, so I sat down with them, just to listen. But as he spoke, I became a participant. Because the presenter, like me, grew up without a father in the home. I told the group about a time me and one of my friends were out riding on our bikes and my chain came off.

I remember cruising to a stop, and just standing there looking at the chain. I had no idea what to do. I eventually just started pushing my bike. My friend circled back, looked at me, then at my bike and said, “What are you doing?” It is hard for me to communicate to you how sarcastic that comment came from my friend. I said, “My chain came off.” He said, “Just put it back on.” I said, “I don’t know how.” My friend got off his bike, flipped my bike upside down and had the chain on in almost a second. I asked him, “How did you do that?” He said, “My dad showed me.” And we got on our bikes and rode off into a fun filled summer day.

I found out that because I did not have a dad at home, I was missing some pretty important information that other kids got through their fathers.

I’ve said that to make clear that along with all of the other horrible things that go along with not having a father in the home, children miss out on information that could make their lives much, much easier. A recent fact that drives this point home is a report on federal prisons says 90 percent of felons in prisons came from homes without fathers.

We work with families regularly that are looking for guidance and help to get through tough times they are facing. But when we get a call from a family with a father in the home it makes me feel like the children could have a little better chance of getting through the hard times they are facing.

So, let me just say, if you have a father at home today, make sure you celebrate him. Because there are too, too many families without one. So if you have learned you are going to be a father or if you have already had a child and realized that you need help becoming the father you want to be, contact the HAPI Project at 866-738-HAPI and get started being the best father you can be.

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