"This editorial was posted in the Courier-Journal newspaper April 20, 2014"
The incidents that took place in May 2012 and March 2014 are scenarios that require a call to action to prevent future episodes of violence in our community. In each case, the response of the community was to focus direct services on the youth. However, the 2012 incident would not have been prevented by youth activities because those involved were adults. Additionally, the recent Waterfront incidents also led to adult arrests.
Ensuring the development of our youth is important. However, we have to keep in mind youth prevention is only a fraction of the solution. There are many parts of the equation. Many collaborative efforts are needed to help enhance the well-being of our youth. At the forefront should be intervention and not just with youth. This intervention has to do with fathers as youth prevention alone will not address the needs of the recent Waterfront incident and the respective enhancement of our youth.
Training and advocacy for fathers is instrumental in providing direction for many youth. We no longer can afford to accept single-parent-headed households as the norm, and refuse to address approaches to get fathers involved.
Case in point: Locally, our school district provides services and support for teenage moms, and rightfully so. Yet for the teenage father there are no services, no support available for them. The premise is to “just go get a job.” In the long run that is no good for the child and as we realize, no good for the community.
Statistically, 85 percent of children who exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes as stated by the Centers for Disease Control, and a 2013 University of Michigan research study states “behaviors from promiscuity to violence often are found in populations where fathers are absent,” and “In areas where adult men are scarce, young people are 36 percent more likely to commit assaults.”
Absentee fatherhood is a major contributor to the problems we currently see. Supporting the idea that fathers play a crucial role in rearing of the youth, the National Fatherhood Initiative shares a story of wildlife reserves that had a problem with orphan elephants running rampant killing endangered species. The problem was not resolved until adult male elephants were introduced into the population.
I’ve said consistently since the violence became a major blip on the radar, the best way to curb the violent behavior is to find ways to get fathers involved. Studies reveal fathers positively impact the direction of their children, but I’m convinced fathers become role models providing guidance for children in the community as well. There are over 70 percent of African-American children residing in single-parent households, in most cases mother as the head of household. This information highlights, our youth are not experiencing the benefit of the guidance and the stability of having two involved parents in their lives.
Many people are frustrated and believe parents are responsible for their children’s behavior. I agree. I believe a big part of the solution echoed by many in the community involves not just parents but specifically fathers. Communication and collaboration at all levels are essential to addressing and implementing necessary measures to ensure success on multiple levels, and some of that work is already being done.
The collaboration between 2NOT1 Fatherhood & Families and many community organizations focus efforts on working with fathers. Collaboration with Plymouth Community and Renewal Center allows workshops and trainings for fathers. The collaboration with the city’s Healthy Start program provides fathers with training to support breast feeding efforts, child discipline, communication skills, anger management and peer mentoring, along with access to employment and educational opportunities. U of L Professor Dr. Armon Perry oversees the evaluation and assessment.
In closing, three things are needed to end the youth aggression and violence in our city. First, unselfish collaboration, in some cases with people we do not agree with. Second, acknowledge it is OK to intentionally and strategically provide services for black men/ fathers. Last, rally behind organizations such as 2NOT1 to provide support services, training and advocacy for fathers. If we do this, research shows we will sharply minimize the risk factors that lead to youth violence.