While it's well-established that children need engaged fathers, it's equally important to note that fathers benefit greatly from their children as well. That was reinforced for me in March when I visited a local fatherhood program to observe fathers as they participate in lessons aimed at helping them become the effective dads their children need.
It was moving to hear multiple fathers share how their children regularly shower them with, "I love you, Dad." They talked about how that made them feel. It gives them a boost unlike none other.
I know the feeling. I count myself blessed to hear the same from my sons. More than that, I can remember times when I didn't have my best day or even my best month, and it was those two boys who played a big role in helping me up.
One of those times occurred several years ago during a time when I had to make a big life-changing decision. I was a bit down. I was about to walk into the living room where the boys were when I heard them talking. They didn't notice me, so I stood near the doorway and listened to them talk. They were talking about me: "I wonder what Dad is going to do," one said.
"I don't know, but God's got Dad. Everything is going to be all right."
"Yeah, God's got him."
What a pick-me-up. Those two little boys had given me what I've always sought to give them: a boost of confidence, faith and courage. I needed that.
A lot of fathers do.
That's what the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families is all about: helping fathers restore and establish meaningful relationships with their children so they can each enjoy the best of the other. When dads pour positively into their children, they can expect some of that positivity back in the form of unconditional love, support and devotion.
This year the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families is celebrating its 20th year. Over that period, the center and its six local programs have helped more than 25,000 men and impacted more than 56,000 children as it has worked to prevent the harms of father absence.
Research tells us that when fathers are absent, children are more likely to become young parents, dropouts, juvenile delinquents and grow up in poverty. But when fathers are present, the result is healthy children, healthy families and healthy communities.
To help prepare fathers to step into their God-given roles of covering and caring for their families, the local fatherhood programs offer training on responsible fatherhood, job readiness and retention, soft-skills training, managing child-support obligations, financial management, parenting, healthy relationships and much more.
Since the center's inception in 2002, more than $90 million has been raised to support the six programs and 15 locations that serve fathers and families in all 46 counties of our state, and 78% of engaged participants leave our programs prepared to live up to the responsibilities of being a father.
The amazing work by the center and its local programs is well worth celebrating, and a 20th-year gala celebrating the center's great work is scheduled for Aug. 11 in Columbia. In addition, recently, Gov. Henry McMaster proclaimed June "Fathers Matter Month."
Fathers do matter, and every time even one dad is empowered to engage his children, it's like a tiny miracle that impacts everyone around him - his children, his community and the generations to come.
Happy Father's Day.
Warren Bolton, a pastor and father from Columbia, is board chair for the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families, a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System. Visit the center's website at www.scfathersandfamilies.com. Twentieth anniversary gala tickets are available at scfathers20years.eventbrite.com.
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