Posts tagged ‘youth violence’
by: Jeffery M. Leving
Hilda Franco and the Chicago Freedom School have developed a program promoting outreach to children and teens caught in the crossfire of violence plaguing Chicago Public Schools. I applaud her initiative and agree that active communication with these children is a positive move in the right direction, but I would like to challenge Herald News readers to take this idea one step further.
As Chairman of the Illinois Council on Responsible Fatherhood (ICRF- http://responsiblefatherhood.com), I believe the best way to reach these teens is to teach their fathers how to communicate with their children. In the Riverdale neighborhood where Derrion Albert grew up, nearly 80% of households with children do not have a father present. Research shows that fatherless children are twice as likely to drop out of school, consistently score lower than average in reading and math, and are eleven times more likely to exhibit violent behavior. There are gender and economic barriers that must be overcome or these fathers will continue to be kicked to the curb. We need to go into this community to empower and educate these men on the importance of being actively involved in their children’s lives. We need to make sure that all fathers in all communities know that they have the legal right to request custody and visitation of their children regardless of their financial situation.
Incarcerated fathers are also victimized by the denial of equal protection. We need to go into the prison systems and give incarcerated fathers the same resources available to incarcerated mothers to help them parent their children both in and out of prison. While Illinois has a program in place giving incarcerated mothers access to their children through virtual visitation (ie: video conferencing), the same option is not provided to fathers. I co-authored the Illinois law giving judges the ability to award virtual visitation to non-custodial parents. Now that this law is in place, let’s implement a virtual visitation program for fathers through the Illinois Department of Corrections focused on the best interest of the child. As the goal, incarcerated fathers remain in contact with their children. Furthermore, during my visit to the Decatur Correctional Center, I learned that incarcerated mothers not only have access to virtual visitation with their children, but are also allowed to live with their babies in prison. The lack of similar programs for fathers is nothing short of institutionalized gender preference showing what little value our society places on the importance of paternal love and bonding. This bias being perpetuated in our prisons not only illustrates the obstacles in place for fathers wanting relationships with their children, it tramples equal protection safeguards.
Until fathers and children everywhere engage in positive relationships, other proposed remedies to safeguard children from violence are just a band-aid on a gaping wound. As a community, we all need to actively search for a solution to this ongoing violence. I agree that giving teens a forum to express themselves to caring adults is invaluable and ICRF is committed to ensuring that every father in Illinois has the knowledge and resources to be there for their kids when they are needed most. But, we must never forget that any man’s loss of his child is a loss for us all.
Jeffery M. Leving
Illinois Council on Responsible Fatherhood
More kids have died in Chicago between September 2007 and August 2008 than servicemen and women from Illinois during the same period in Iraq. A recent survey estimates the greatest fear Chicago schoolchildren have is “getting shot.”
Government officials, educators, and community activists debate continuously over the causes of the explosion of youth violence in Chicago — gangs, drugs, guns, poor school funding, etc. While all of those factors certainly contribute to the rising statistics on youth violence, the largest contributing factor that continually gets overlooked is absent fathers.
Studies show that school systems with above-average rates of father absence have nearly double the rates of school violence compared to those with below-average rates of father absence. Children who do not live with both parents are also more likely to carry a gun, assault another student and assault a teacher. To put it simply, father absence is the single strongest predictor that a child will grow up to be violent or fall victim to violence.
When male youths do not have a father figure in their lives, they often join gangs to fill that emptiness and look to gang leaders to fill that “fatherless” void in their lives. There is a critical connection between a father’s absence, juvenile delinquency and anti-social aggression in our youths. The likelihood that a male will engage in criminal activity doubles when he is raised without a dad. In fact, 72 percent of adolescents charged with murder grew up without their father (Characteristics of Adolescents Charged with Homicide, 1987).
Boys who grow up in broken marriages are more than twice as likely as other young males to end up in jail and each year spent without a father in the home increases the likelihood of future incarceration by 5 percent (Father Absence and Youth Incarceration, 1999).
Delinquency and crime are among the many damaging effects created by father absence. The solution to stopping the continued slaughter of Chicago children is to stop kicking fathers to the curb. Fathers who are not involved in their children’s lives need to step up to the plate and start building a solid lasting relationship with them.
But there are also millions of great dad’s out there in America that are being pushed out of their children’s lives. Gender bias and parental alienation are preventing many good fathers from getting involved in their children’s lives.
The solution to youth violence must begin with reuniting fathers with their children. Until this happens, every other measure that is taken is like putting a band-aid on a wound. We have to restore fatherhood as a societal norm in our community. It is an inalienable right for children to walk to school each day, play on the playground, ride their bikes on the street and not fear for their lives.
The Illinois Council on Responsible Fatherhood is issuing a call-to-action for all parents and concerned community leaders to make a commitment to restoring responsible fatherhood in our community. We have to come together to protect the future of our youth. For more free information, visit http://www.responsiblefatherhood.com.
Jeffery M. Leving of Chicago is the author of “Divorce Wars” and the Chairman of the Illinois Council on Responsible Fatherhood.