According to the Ohio Commission on Fatherhood, children in homes absent of fathers are five times more likely to live in poverty. A community conversation was held on May 29 in the Mansfield Senior High School Community Room discussing fatherhood in Richland county.
Community Action Commission of Erie, Huron and Richland counties, Inc. applied for and received a $10,000 seed grant from the Ohio Commission on Fatherhood, said Buddy Workman, a volunteer member of the leadership team for the Richland County Fatherhood Initiative. The leadership team has been comprised of members from Richland County Children Services, The Ohio State University – Mansfield, Richland County Child Support, Youth and Family council and many other community entities that have an interest in promoting strong and positive fathers in the community.
Katrece Lee, special projects supervisor for the Richland County office at Community Action, gave national and local statistics about why the initiative is important and why fathers are needed in their children’s lives.
“According to the 2011-2012 census bureau over 24 million children live apart from their biological fathers,” she said. “That is one out of every three or 33 percent of children in America.”
Lee said children who live in father-absent homes are more likely to fail in school, develop emotional and behavioral problems, and commit suicide and will likely end up incarcerated.
In Richland County, 47 percent of the population live in a female-headed household with no husband present, Lee said.
“Children need fathers in their lives because they are subjected to all these negative things in our society,” she said. “These negative things are going on in society because fathers aren’t in the household. …We hope you all will be a part of changing these statistics for the better.”
Monica Mahoney, Ohio Fatherhood Commission, said fatherless homes are not the only indicator for a troubled life but it is a strong factor.
“A lot of studies will show that the biggest predictor of childhood success is having a father in the home,” she said. “That is regardless of whether those kids live in cities or rural communities; whether their parents have high paying jobs or low paying jobs; just having that relationship with their father is a predictor for a better future.”
Mahoney encouraged the crowd of fathers, community officials, community members and guests to put their ideas onto paper with the prompt "What does a community with responsible fathers look like?"
Groups of four or more sat at the various tables and talked about the things such as employment, healthy communication between the mother and father, education, and other barriers fathers may face.
After mixing people at different tables – in the "World Café" style – Mahoney wrote down the groups’ ideas on huge Post-it notes and stuck them on the wall. People then made their way to the ideas and put circle stickers beside what they thought were the most important factors the community should focus on while trying to build a community of better fathers.
“It’s not the state saying here’s what’s wrong and here’s what to do differently,” she said. “That’s been going on for far too long. We want you to tell us what’s wrong and what you want to do differently and we’re going to provide you with the financial resources to make that a reality.”
Brian Moore, Ph. D., from the Ohio Practitioners Network for Fathers and Families and the coach for the local fatherhood initiative said Richland county will join 17 other counties in the state that have a fatherhood initiative.
“This is a county that clearly has recognized that there are challenges for many of the dads in our community and instead of just sitting back, you have taken time this afternoon to say what can I do about that?” he said.
The top four things the group decided would help fathers and the Richland County community: A healthy communication between parents, men as leaders in the community, employment, and fathers involved in the education of their children.
Mansfield Mayor Tim Theaker, Shelby Mayor Marilyn John, Richland County Common Pleas Judge Brent Robinson and representatives from various social service, educational and governmental agencies were also in attendance.
Angel N. Ross-Taylor is a correspondent for Richland Source. Follow her on Twitter @angelnichole222.