(BPT) – “I’m the backup parent, the understudy.” George Clooney’s famous line about his role as a father in the Oscar winning film “The Descendants” was good for a laugh at the time. But numerous studies and decades of statistics tell a far more serious tale about a father’s importance in the life of his children. Research shows that growing up without a father negatively affects virtually every aspect of a child’s life, and the impact continues into adulthood.
Children growing up without a father or father figure are more likely to live in poverty, are less likely to finish high school or attend college, and are more prone to engage in anti-social behaviors that can lead to delinquency and incarceration, according to a report in the online journal EducationNext by professors at Princeton University and the Harvard Kennedy School. The study points out that U.S. Census Bureau figures show nearly a quarter of all American children younger than 18 live with an unmarried mother.
“Decades of increased kids growing up in single-mother households have contributed to the misconception that fathers are ‘spare’ or ‘backup’ parents, but nothing could be farther from the truth,” says Bill Blodgett, founder of Majesty Outdoors Foundation, an outreach program aimed at helping children growing up without a father figure. “Fatherlessness is a serious American epidemic that has far-reaching impacts on individual families and on society as a whole.”
Blodgett, raised by a single mother since the age of 2, credits the mentorship of two friends’ fathers as the positive influence he needed to change the impact of fatherlessness in his own life. That experience, as well as his work as a couples’ counselor, convinced Blodgett of the positive power mentorship could have in helping fatherless children. Blodgett founded the nonprofit Majesty Outdoors Foundation, which provides fatherless kids with one-of-a-kind outdoor experiences to help them learn unique skills and the power of mentorship. Excursions on Majesty Outdoors TV are broadcast weekly on Destination America, Time Warner Cable’s Sports Channel and Pursuit Channel.
Blodgett suggests simple ways you can get involved:
* Become a mentor. Many local and national organizations aim to provide mentors to young people in need. Your life experience can be valuable in helping a fatherless child find guidance and support. Look for a Generation Outdoors mentorship chapter near you, or contact Scott Dahlstrom by emailing Scott@GenerationOutdoors.Org to learn more about starting a chapter in your community.
* Lend a hand. Getting involved doesn’t have to require you to sign up for an official outreach program. It can be as simple as including someone in your family’s activities. Perhaps your child has a friend growing up without a father, or you know someone in your neighborhood. Invite the child to share dinner or fun activities with your family so he or she can experience the warmth and love of a family unit.
* Spread the word. It’s not always a popular topic, but it’s important to talk about the increasing rate of children growing up in single-parent households, and the need to support them through mentorship. By raising awareness, you may inspire others to get involved.
* Help raise funds or donate. Everyone’s busy and giving your time isn’t always possible. You can still help financially. Even a small amount can help a nonprofit organization provide scholarships, mentorship and positive experiences to youth in need of an extra hand. Every dollar counts in helping to rewrite the fatherless story through mentoring.
* Support a single mother. This can be as simple as just being her friend and including her and her children on outings with your family. You can also participate in support programs that help single mothers further their educations, learn and refine job skills, and manage their finances.
“Our youth will lead this country forward and determine the progress of our communities and lives,” Blodgett says. “Through mentorship and outreach, we can all work together to help ensure that no child’s potential is cut short because of family circumstance.”
To learn more about Majesty Outdoors Foundation, visit www.majestyoutdoors.org.