Research in the United States and New Zealand shows that children who don't have a father figure in their lives are three to seven times more likely to have an unwanted pregnancy in their teenage years.
The U.S. Census Bureau tells us that children in father-absent homes are five times more likely to be poor. In 2002, 7.8 percent of children in married-couple families were living in poverty, compared to 38.4 percent of children in female-householder families.
Even after taking income into account, youths in father-absent households still had significantly higher odds of incarceration than those in mother-father families. Youths who never had a father in the household experienced the highest odds, said the Journal of Research on Adolescence 14 in 2004.
For those reasons and many more, a group of area organizations will hold the third annual Minnesota Fathers Forever event from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Cloquet. The event is free.
"In the past, it's been assumed that children need a mother and a father is optional," said Al Baumgarten-Leveille, an outreach worker with the Duluth non-profit Fathers and Children Together. "But there's been a bunch of research lately showing how important having a father [or father figure] really is. It affects a child's grades, whether or not they try drugs, unwanted pregnancies ... having a father present will improve almost every aspect [of a child's life]."
Any father or man with children in the home is encouraged to come to all or a portion of Saturday's program. Registration begins at 9 a.m. for the different sessions offered in the morning and afternoon, plus Supreme Court Justice and former Minnesota Vikings player Alan Page will be the keynote speaker at approximately 12:30 p.m. Page will talk about the importance of higher education, strong families and responsible fatherhood. Prior to the keynote speech, there will be a brief program from local poet Rob Peacock and a local drum group.
In addition to the presentation by Page, this year's free event will include a "45 Minutes to Better Personal Finance" class, a "Cooking with Dad" class, a parenting class, a Q-and-A about being a dad and an informal family law clinic, among others.
Free childcare is available during the event.
"We want to work with fathers - biological or not - who are trying to develop a better relationship with their children," Baumgarten-Leveille said. "You might be a stay-at-home dad while mom works, or a dad who doesn't live with his children, either way, we want to talk to you."
In addition to the classes, more than 20 area organizations and vendors that support families will be present at the event, all of them resources fathers can tap into.
Baumgarten-Leveille threw out a few statistics, noting that 99 percent of fathers want to be involved in their children's lives, and 95 percent of moms want the fathers to be involved.
"There are numerous reasons that isn't happening," the outreach worker said. "We're trying to turn that around. Our system is geared toward women. Just look at WIC [which stands for Women Infants and Children]. Fathers can access that program, but you wouldn't know from the title.
"We're trying to bring the issue to light and give fathers the opportunity and some tools to use for improving their relationship with their kids."
The Fathers Forever event was created by a large coalition of organizations, including the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency, Boyz II Dadz Young Fathers Program, Carlton County Child Support, Fond du Lac Head Start, Fond du Lac Social Services, St. Louis County Child Support and the University of Minnesota, among others.