By Heidi Scott
“There is a tremendous sense of security that comes with the knowledge that my father loves me and will never leave me, and no matter how I behave, I will always have a father to come back to. How many children ache for that love and security today?”
Ron Haunestien, of the Spokane Fatherhood Initiative (SpoFi), posed this question to local religious influencers earlier this month at an event held at the Union Gospel Mission.
Fatherlessness, in the context of SpoFi’s work, doesn’t simply mean the absence of a father. Its broadened definition includes all young people without a present and involved father figure, whether biologically related or not. They identify fatherlessness as the root of a majority of our city’s problems.
Government agencies have approached SpoFi with concerns that public resources are overloaded with the care of women and children who are without adequate support. Fatherless homes account for 63 percent of youth suicides and 85 percent of all youth sitting in prison. Approximately 3,500 students in Spokane County are considered homeless. The foster care system in Spokane County is critically overburdened with a growing population of at-risk children and a shrinking supply of foster homes.
SpoFi’s ambitious goal is simple: no broken families in Spokane. The group is asking churches to recognize the urgency of fatherlessness and commit to take action within their spheres of influence.
Their work currently centers around three critical goals:
- Increase adoption rates,
- Increase certified foster care, and
- Prevent broken homes.
Representatives from A Child’s Hope Adoption Agency, Fostering WA, the Christian Associate of Youth Mentors, and Safe Families for Children are onboard. These agencies aid and mentor at-risk youth and support the foster care system here in Spokane. In the future, SpoFi will be reaching out to men’s ministries to help work toward building better dads. Future events are being organized with these three goals in mind.
Sherriff Ozzie Knezovich said that he could spend hours discussing his thoughts on the matter and not even scratch the surface. “The men of this country are failing their children. Period. Those of us who are still involved aren’t passing along the knowledge of how to be a father because we are too consumed with ourselves, our work, our hobbies. We aren’t engaged with the family. For too many, fatherhood is just a biological function.”
“The men of this country are failing their children. Period. Those of us who are still involved aren’t passing along the knowledge of how to be a father because we are too consumed with ourselves, our work, our hobbies. We aren’t engaged with the family. For too many, fatherhood is just a biological function,” he said.
He shared stories of young men he has to apprehend who have no idea what it means to be a man. “It’s sad that society needs to define ‘manhood.’ When I was growing up, we all knew exactly what it was. Take care of your family. Put everything you have toward your family. Defend the family. It’s been less than a generation and we’ve lost that. Within another generation, will there be anyone left to be a dad? We aren’t teaching our young men what a father is. Or our daughters what a man looks like so she doesn’t pick the wrong one.”
“It’s sad that society needs to define ‘manhood.’ When I was growing up, we all knew exactly what it was. Take care of your family. Put everything you have toward your family. Defend the family. It’s been less than a generation and we’ve lost that. Within another generation, will there be anyone left to be a dad? We aren’t teaching our young men what a father is. Or our daughters what a man looks like so she doesn’t pick the wrong one,” he said.
The sheriff issued a call action, saying that churches have bowed to the passions of the world too long. People have forgotten that fatherhood and motherhood are sacred callings. “If we hadn’t forgotten that, we wouldn’t have our 14-year-old daughters selling their bodies online because they are bored, and Mom’s working and
“If we hadn’t forgotten that, we wouldn’t have our 14-year-old daughters selling their bodies online because they are bored, and mom’s working and dad’s not around to stop her. She gets caught up with some pimp who claims he can help her make more money, then he keeps all her money. That’s the real definition of sex trafficking,” he said.
He then finished with a suggestion, “If you want to fix a broken person, you have to teach them how to fix themselves. The same goes for a broken society. Church, I hope you can do better than the secular world has done. We have our marching orders. You have the energy, the resources, and most importantly, you have the calling and the power of God behind you. You remember that famous starfish story where the old man asks why the young boy is throwing starfish back into the ocean. There are so many, it could never make a difference. The boy answers that it makes a difference to one. So many people miss the point. It isn’t the one that matters most. It’s the generations of starfish that come after the one that we save.”
The effects of fatherlessness go far beyond the home. When a father is not around, the mother very often has to work long hours to support her family. This means that for youth who are too old for childcare, there tends to be a gap in adult involvement. This has led to a weak incoming workforce, which impacts the social, educational, and economic conditions in the community.
“This problem is bigger than any church. It’s going to take all of us,” says Todd Kleppin from the Christian Associate of Youth Mentors. “Doctrinal division has nothing to do with suffering kids. It doesn’t matter what church you belong to when you’re handing a clean hanky to a crying mother.”
Hauenstien finished, “Our vision is to restore the importance and dignity of fatherhood. We want to transform Spokane from a city where fatherlessness is our biggest problem, to a radiant and thriving, well-fathered city.”
Spokane is the home of Father’s Day, after all.
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A freelance writer and editor, Heidi Scott has been publishing since 2001. In 2008, Heidi and her family moved to Spokane, into a 100-year-old farmhouse north of Spokane. When not working, she grows and preserves much of the food her family eats throughout the year. She enjoys adventures with goats, sheep, cows, chickens, rabbits, barn cats, and a hummingbird named Mildred, who visits Heidi every day in the summer while she milks her goats.