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The Fatherhood Challenge: Responsible Fatherhood and Quality Mentoring Matters

Today, father absence is among the most pervasive social problems challenging American families. An estimated 24 million children (34%) live absent their biological father. Children and youth who live in father-absent homes are more at least two to three times more likely to be poor, use drugs, and experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems. Moreover, these children are more likely to be victims of child abuse and neglect, and to engage in delinquent and criminal behavior, than their peers who live with their married, biological (or adoptive) parents.

While the aforementioned family statistics are formidable, there is hope on the horizon. The presence of a responsible father improves a variety of outcomes for children and serves as a protective factor against problem behaviors including teen drug use, pregnancy, truancy and criminal activity. Thus, supporting and encouraging fathers to become more present and actively involved in their child's life offers significant potential to reduce the adverse effects of father absence and to empower individual lives, foster families and contribute to community well-being.

Similarly mentoring—the presence of a caring adult offering support, advice, friendship, reinforcement and constructive examples—has proven to be a powerful tool for helping youth reach their full potential. Quality mentoring relationships offer significant potential to reduce the adverse effects of father absence by improving young people’s attitudes toward parents, encouraging students to focus on their education, and helping children face daily challenges. Also, mentors serves as an important means to promote responsible fatherhood by being present in the lives of those youth where the biological father cannot (or should not) be present to promote the health and safety of the child and the family.

For over a century, Big Brother Big Sisters of America has been impacting the lives of children and helping youth reach their potential. Each time our agencies match a child with a role model, we start something incredible: a one-to-one relationship built on trust and friendship that can blossom into a future of unlimited potential. Over the past two decades, the Big Brother Big Sisters of America mentoring model has emerged as an evidence-based practice for positive youth development—and as an effective tool to help young people build resilience and succeed in life. Consistently, a growing body of empirical literature concludes that our volunteer mentoring serves as a valuable intervention and prevention strategy that has proven effective at “making a difference” in the lives of at-risk youth. For more information on Big Brother Big Sisters of America, visit www.bbbs.org.

Big Brother Big Sisters of America recognizes that our brand of quality mentoring holds tremendous promise as a potential solution to the problem of father absence. We are inspired by the President's Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative and are proud to support the Fatherhood Challenge. The primary goal of the Fatherhood Challenge is to restore America’s commitment to fatherhood via a national contest for youth and young adults starting at the age of 13. Contestants compete for cash prizes and a trip to Washington, D.C. by expressing what fatherhood means to them by creating a song, photo, video or a short essay. While most fatherhood initiatives focus primarily on the adult population, the Fatherhood Challenge is one of the first initiatives of its kind which takes a preemptive approach by creating fatherhood awareness among teens and young adults utilizing the power of social media and emerging technology. For more information on this innovative initiative, visit www.ThisIsFatherhood.com.

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