As we head into Father’s Day weekend, strengthening the family in Maryland must become a top priority. Social science research continues to confirm that children are more likely to thrive when they are raised in a home with a married mother and father, and every citizen in the state needs to know this basic truth.
In June 2008, then-presidential-candidate Barack Obama, who eventually carried Maryland by a 25-point margin, addressed the crisis of fatherlessness by lamenting that “[w]e know the statistics – that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison … And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.” A decade and a half later, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis echoed these same sad truths by observing, “If every kid in America had a loving father in the home, we would have far, far fewer problems that we would have to deal with as a society …” Yet, despite the seriousness of the problem and the apparent agreement from across the political spectrum, fatherlessness is not an issue we see our elected leaders or media figures doing much to address.
In fact, our culture downplays the value of men in general and fathers in particular. Fathers are frequently portrayed by Hollywood as either comical buffoons or bitter tyrants. Birth certificates in Maryland now use the term “parent” rather than “father” (or “mother” for that matter). Our society’s current dismissal of the value of fathers comes despite the facts that consistently show, year after year, that children are put at a substantial disadvantage when they don’t have a father in the home.
The data consistently reflect this. Whether it is poverty, educational decline, witnessing violence, single parenthood or relying on social welfare services, children who come from fatherless families are more likely to experience negative outcomes.
Although many of us have benefitted from the Free State’s best-in-class educational and medical institutions, none of these institutions and the services they offer can compete with the benefits of a mommy and daddy raising their children together in the home.
Father’s Day 2023 will likely pass like any other, with cookouts, home projects, silly Father’s Day cards, and perhaps a new golf shirt. The important message, however, isn’t so much what we say to our dads, but what our society portrays to our sons and daughters. Are young men nobly inspired to become married fathers? When young women look for a mate, are they willing to settle for a “baby daddy,” or do they want a committed man who will make continual sacrifices for the benefit of his family?
Governor Moore understands the importance of fathers given his own experience losing his father when he was a child. Ten years ago, he offered compassionate advice about how to interact with a fatherless boy like himself. In a social media post from a few years ago, the future Governor reflected on the idea of his father’s passing, “The promise of him, his love for me, has influenced every part of how I see myself as a citizen, a man, a son, a husband, a father.” At a recent fathers rally in Prince George’s County, the Governor challenged communities and families to step up, in order to “…build stronger boys that turn into strong men.”
Based on current trends in family formation, and the personal experience of too many children growing up without fathers, we must recognize married fatherhood as its rightful status critical to a healthy society. To do that, we must help young men and women recognize the risks and burdens to their future children if they don’t take marriage and fatherhood seriously. They need to know that they can make decisions today – to finish high school, find jobs, and get married before they start families – that will dramatically lower the odds that their children will grow up in poverty or experience any of the other maladies associated with fatherlessness. Every family, every church, and every school in Maryland needs to make this case to the next generation.
Jeffrey Trimbath, a married father of three children, is a volunteer with the Maryland Family Institute.