Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Evan Bayh: Responsbible Fatherhood

The following is an excerpt of an excerpt of Father to Son: A Private Life in the Public Eye by Evan Bayh that appeared in the DLC Blueprint magazine in June, 2003:

I always knew that I wanted to have children someday, but until the birth of my twin sons in 1995, parenthood was an abstract idea. That all changed when I first held Nick and Beau in my arms. I'll never forget the overwhelming feeling of joy and the profound sense of responsibility I felt that day -- a responsibility to do right by my sons, to protect and nurture them, to give them the best upbringing I possibly could.

Though I didn't know it at the time, that day also marked the birth of one of my greatest political passions: battling our country's epidemic of fatherlessness.

Each night, more than 17 million kids in the United States go to bed in homes without fathers. Today we lead the world in the percentage of father absence, up 300 percent from just forty years ago. Too many men are bringing children into the world and then just walking away, leaving mothers and taxpayers to pick up the pieces and the bill.

Consider the statistics: children who aren't in contact with their fathers are five times more likely to live in poverty and ten times more likely to live in extreme poverty. They're more likely to bring weapons and drugs into the classroom. Children without fathers are twice as likely to commit crimes and drop out of school. They're more than twice as likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Children without fathers are also more likely to commit suicide and to become teenage parents. The overwhelming majority of violent criminals -- including 72 percent of adolescent murderers and 70 percent of long-term prison inmates -- are males who grew up without fathers.

Make no mistake about it: father absence hurts children. As governor of Indiana, I'd become all too familiar with its devastating effects as we worked to address a connected web of social problems that have their roots in the breakdown of families. When I came to office in 1989, for example, Indiana was experiencing a corrections crisis. Fueled by a increase in drug-related convictions, our inmate population was exploding. The connection between crime and the breakdown of family structures was driven home to me by Jim Aiken, head of our Department of Corrections.
This is a very good issue to campaign on. Responsible fatherhood is a moral value.

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