In a recent community meeting a disparity of understanding became most evident. There was big tension. You would think that a group convened to make a difference for mis-fathered children would have no problem agreeing. NOT! Big problems.
In another conversation a few days later with a different group, but still discussing our mis-fathered homes (Pun intended. If you don’t get it, you will.), disparity of understanding was again most evident.
Hmmm. I was beginning to wonder if I was a problem. Two groups. Many different people. The only common denominators were me and the issue of fatherless and homeless children.
In reflection on my own soul, one core issue that never made it to the table is the difference between personal fathering and government fathering. Fathers in many instances have abdicated commitment and responsibility for their children. Every child has a father except the ones that are orphans by death. The question is not whether they are fatherless. The question is whether they are fathered correctly and personally. In the interim, government, education, community agencies, and congregations have entered the role of fathering. The child is left with a mishmash of attempts. None of them are able to fill the role of a birth father instituted and empowered by The Father. Anything else is less than the best.
Yes, I believe, the best father for any child is the one ordained by The Father at conception and committed wholeheartedly to that child. Now I don’t know how to have this conversation without acknowledging the Creator and His involvement. So I listen to others that live from that perspective and contribute mine to the pot of ideas. A birth father may make mistakes and take actions over which you and I disagree. But he is the father of universal Creator design and fills a role no one else can play.
In the first conversation, several issues rose.
One issue was the use of the term, “homeless”, for children under the jurisdiction of the court needing foster parentage for a season. Of course, there usually is a home. It may be burdened with illness, drugs, crime, or poverty and unable to function in the best interests of the child. But there is a home. This child is homeless by pain. It may be burdened with parents that incarcerated. This child is homeless by prison. It may be burdened by with one or more parents or relatives or persons that are abusive and dangerous. This child is homeless by pressure. It may be burdened by a home situation where the parents are not able to provide financially. This child is homeless by poverty. Whether the child is homeless by pain or prison or pressure or poverty or all four together does not change the fact that they need a home that can foster hope and love in them. It is hard for me to think of these children as homeless, but in reality for a season, that is their situation and they need that foster home with foster parents.
Of course when you are talking adoption there is another set of circumstances. By death, decree, or decision a child may be permanently homeless. The parents my die. The parents may be deemed so unfit that the courts decree the child in need of a new set of parents. The parents may decide they cannot or will not provide and turn the child over to the state or others for disposition. Foster parents are needed in the interim as decisions are made and lifetime parents are sought out.
Another issue that seems simple, but affronts real solution is governmental mentoring. One great hearted mentor of a child talked of how he started as a tutor, but now he oversees multiple pieces of the child’s family. This provision comes through the hands of others. Medical care happens through a governmental agency. Job training comes through use of resources at an agency he operates. School intervention comes through yet another tag team connection. Is this fathering? Isaiah 58 talks about spending yourself on behalf of the hungry. Does spending many other selves meet criteria? What is the child learning? Your father won’t help you himself, he will depend on all others first and continue to keep his personal resources to himself? He has them. He just won’t share them with you. You have to go to the government, church, agency, and school. Is that any different a lesson he has learned from his present fathering situation? Jesus said, “I will take from what is mine.” It is not wrong and may be totally necessary, but the message has to be watched closely.
Another discussion brought up the use of the term fatherless. There are many versions of fathering in our communities. There is the floating father, who may have children by three women, but he continues to see and influence each child. Certainly an irresponsible pattern of fathering, but he is the child’s father. His son or daughter will tell you he is there father. There is the fractured father, who has issues and brings emotional and physical conflict to the child. Certainly it is not healthy, but he is the child’s father. There is the flight father, who has abandoned his responsibility for any number of reasons and has not been connected for some time. Certainly this is sad, but he is the child’s father. There is the fearful father, who has no idea what to do so he stays at a distance emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. Certainly this is not good, but he is the child’s father. And there is the fearsome father, who is abusive in any number of ways and needs to be held at bay. Certainly, this is destructive and the child needs protection, but he is the child’s father. Floating, fractured, flight, fearful, and fearsome fathers cause fretful damage to children. But they are the child’s father. We can come alongside the child and be “another father”, but we can never fully replace that father in their mind and heart.
These mis-fathered children end up with measureable issues of angst, imprisonment, failure in school, lack of proper compassion, poverty, anti-social behavior, and self-destructive lifestyles. They need “another father” to guide and instill contentedness and confidence into their souls. Yes, they are fatherless just like some children are homeless. Yet, they do have a father and they probably have a home.
Whew, I’m sure there are many differing opinions on all of this. After a lifetime of living as a child abuse investigator, social worker, pastor, business operator, father, and community leader, there are some strong opinions in me. They have been built over time and travel. There is more to travel and more to understand as others have followed different patterns and experiences. I must hear them and find solutions alongside that work. But at least it all helped me build some means of organizing and understanding as I work among families to help fathers be the best they can be.
A fractured father can be healed and restored.
A floating father can become decisive and responsible.
A flight father can be brought home.
A fearful father can be taught and empowered.
A fearsome father can be tamed to love and build.
An orphaned child can be adopted and fathered fully.
A mis-fathered father can learn new patterns and take appropriate interest. His heart can be turned to be for his child. He needs choice and resources and friendship to get there. We can give it.
Every one of these situations can be turned and a Fearless Father brought to the home front. He may have to father from a distance due to divorce or other separating issues, but he can be a Fearless Father. He may be “another Fearless Father” instead of the birth father, and he can bring hope and healing to a needful child. He may be an adoptive Fearless Father as there is great power and love in adoption.
No matter the discussion points, we all agree. We need Fearless Fathers.
At the Shepherd Center, we are going to do all we can to help all of these types of fathers and children in these homes. Everyone deserves a chance at having a Fearless Father.