Toledo, OH – Stephen Ward knows what it means to grow up without a father in the home. At the age of 32 he has endured a lifetime of circumstances. Faced with adversity throughout his childhood, he has overcame insurmountable odds. As a Pittsburgh native, he grew up in a single-parent home, in a poverty stricken neighborhood. The oldest son of a Mother who was a victim of domestic violence, which later caused her to struggle with addiction; he assumed the role of caregiver and protector even when he could not fend for himself. He and his siblings experienced a transient existence, in and out of the homes of relatives and friends. Ward is a devoted husband and father who also gained custody of his youngest brother, who now is a college student at Tiffin University.
Ward states, “I know the impact of what it means to not have a father in the home. In fact, I know what it means to grow up in a home filled with domestic violence. As a child, I knew what it meant to see my mother get beat...and not be able to do anything about it. I know what it means to be labeled as an illegitimate child. My siblings and I all have different fathers.”
Over 50% of children in the United States experience the pain of father abandonment before they reach the age of eighteen. In some inner city communities, it is a staggering 80%! Father absence is the primary cause of both economic and social poverty. The majority of school drop outs, drug addictions, criminal behavior and out-of-wedlock pregnancies can be traced to the absence of a healthy father in the home. Father absence cuts across all racial, social and economic boundaries. 70% of kids with a parent in prison will end up incarcerated themselves. Violent crime, drug and alcohol abuse, truancy, teenage pregnancy and suicide all correlate more strongly to fatherlessness than to any other single factor.
Ward states, “In Toledo, approximately 800 babies a year are born to a teen mother. It is estimated that at any one time there are over 13,000 youth in our community who were born of teen parents. One out of every twenty-one investigations of child abuse and neglect by Lucas County Children Services involves children of teenage mothers and 35 percent of the cases involving ongoing services involved a mother who, as a teenager, had given birth to a child. Lucas County has led the urban counties in Ohio all but four times since 1989 in teen births.”
We must endeavor to break the fatherless epidemic in Toledo, and support organizations that aim to break the fatherless cycle that has plagued so many communities. We must champion the role of fatherhood by inspiring and equipping men to be more engaged in the lives of children.
Ward states, “Fathers leave an indelible mark on their children and society. We must encourage, equip, and support dads as they become the true heroes of the coming generation. Therefore, please join me as I support the Northcoast Fatherhood Initiative (www.northcoastfathers.org) and make a commitment to fatherhood.”
This commitment is characterized by men who will fulfill their commitment to Love their children, Coach their children, Model for their children, Encourage other children, and Enlist other dads to join the team. 10% of the fathers in our community equals to 5,300, which is why we need your help reaching every father, stepfather, grandfather and father figure in your family, circle of friends, church and organization!
Ward asserts, “I believe that if we as a men invest more time in our youth, particularly those who do not have a father or a father-figure...we can reduce the crime, teen pregnancies, and a plethora of other things that are detrimental to families and the city of Toledo.”