The seed bed of all social problems
by John Cragg
Executive Director of Long Island Youth Mentoring
Fatherlessness is the foundational cause for most of our current social problems. Today, the United States imprisons a higher per capita of our citizens than any other county in the world. 85% of those in jail come from fatherless homes. This fact alone is sobering. From crime to suicide, from addictions to psychiatric problems, fatherlessness is the common denominator. The answers to the problems that are caused by fatherlessness are not found by passing a law or doling out more money. A problem that is caused by the loss of a primary relationship – e.g. a missing dad — must be addressed and solved by the establishment of new, positive, personal relationships. Governments can do some things well, but creating warm personal relationships is not one of them.
Government money is not the answer
The solution is also not found in attaching blame to a single mom who is already struggling and in most cases, doing the very best she can do. One solution is found in supporting those single moms and grandmothers by matching a screened and trained mentor to these precious children.
As the mentor lives out his/her life with the child, two-four hours a week, a new life model is laid out, and a new path is paved. If the child chooses to follow that path, a multi-generational change has occurred. First a child learns to trust his mentor, then, he or she often he learns to trust his mentor’s Lord.
The problem is big and it keeps rolling in like the waves of the ocean, generation after generation. It seems overwhelming. However, God has provided a group of people who are numerous and uniquely called to do it. We recruit from the Church across denominational lines. Why is this group of people who meet under the steeple on Main St. especially predisposed to fight this fast growing cultural cancer? God has communicated His desire for the church to reach out to the orphan and the fatherless over 40 times in the Bible. Christians are uniquely equipped because they carry the Spirit of God within them. When a Christian prays up and shows up, the Spirit of God literally shows up to love that child. Reaching out to the fatherless and orphans are a part of the DNA of the mission of the church. However, too much of the Church is asleep on the job. One of LIYM’s jobs is to present a wakeup call to the Church.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:
to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from
being polluted by the world
So What Do We Do?
First we must recognize the reality of the growing problem and what this can mean to our nation. Then we need to wake up that sleeping giant called the Church. The Church is more than the pretty white building in the middle of town where people get married, baptized, and eulogized. Caring for the fatherless and the orphan is a part of the historical call and culture of the Church.
Mentors Make a Difference – But in some communities, few are naturally available.
Who was your mentor? Was it your father? Was it your mother? Was your mentor a teacher or a neighbor? Dr. William Glaser, the founder of Reality Therapy, tells us that in order to be emotionally healthy you need to have had at least one person you loved and at least one person you knew loved you. Sadly, many children do not have this one essential someone.
Mentoring is the only methodology that consistently, and reliably, helps troubled youth negotiate the dark hallways of fatherlessness and ushers them into the light of productive citizenship. When a Christian commits to mentor a child, he commits to spend two to four hours with his assigned youth each week for a minimum of one year. 83% stay on for the second year, and over 70% see the third year through to its completion.
- Drug abuse by 46%
- School drop outs by 52%
- Teen pregnancy by 35%
- Violent behavior by 52%
We have repeatedly seen that children cannot break free of the poverty, abuse, and the bad decisions of their parents unless they have some positive influence to model another way. They need to see other options. Words, on their own, do not illuminate the way. Children need to have a visually modeled alternative or they are far too often destined to repeat behavior that has caused them great pain; and when that happens, the multi-generational cycle churns out another hurting generation. Some receive these positive, influential mentors in their lives naturally. It may be a teacher or a neighbor who makes a difference. I have spoken to many people who speak of the neighbor across the street who regularly had them over for dinner and it was there that they saw that “their normal”, was not the norm. However, too many do not bond with the positive role models they encounter. Our primary task is to place positive adult Christian mentors in the lives of children who are in need of life direction. Long Island Youth Mentoring is here to recruit that adult, make sure he/she is positive, match them to a child, and train and supervise them in being effective mentors to their assigned “at risk” child.
Shanna* runs out her front door clutching two hands full of change and gets in the car with her mentor, Diane*.
‘My mom wants to know if we can pick up a bag of ice on our way back home.’
Diane said:”Sure, that won’t be a problem. Are you having a party?” ”No”, said Shanna
“Then why do you need ice?” asked Diane.
”Because we are out”, Shanna stated as if it was an obvious answer to a silly question.
So Diane asked,”Don’t you have ice trays?”
”What are they?” asked the now interested Shanna.
“They are what you use to make ice.”
Then came the amazing question. ”You can make ice?“
Diane took Shanna to the store, bought two ice trays, then to her home to fill them with water. Two hours later, Shanna learned the wonder of where ice came from and how she could make it all happen. From that day on, this little girl had a family job: Making ice.
*Names changed to protect privacy.
I know this is hard to believe, but if the art of ice making can be lost after four generations of dependence, imagine what happens to the concept of work. When a child never sees anyone get up and go to work in the morning, why go to school? Why do homework? What is the purpose of good grades? The multi-generational ramifications are endless. Around the dinner table, no one talks about what happened at work. There often are no meals eaten together and too often no table for that matter. The problem is not a lack of money for food, but a lack of model or motivation.
Our goal is not to take the kids out and pick up a bag of ice. Our goal is to model and make ice makers.
- Honored by President George Bush as one of the nation’s Thousand Points of light.
- Established the Three Keys to a safe and effective mentoring ministry. These are used as ‘best practices’ in 270 programs around the nation.
- Started the Christian Mentoring Institute that has become The Christian Association of Youth Mentoring, which has trained and supported over 270 Christian groups who have each started mentoring ministries to the fatherless and orphans in our great nation.
- Started and still operating The Partners-To-Potential Ministry, (aka The Homework Club) an after school tutoring/mentoring ministry that partners schools and churches. This ministry was honored in 2010 with the ‘Promising Practices Award’ by the nationally recognized organization Character Education Partnership (CEP).
- Established Bridges Ministry, a mentoring ministry that partners churches with foster homes. Each orphan receives a mentor from the church. The church has a focused ministry to orphans within one home. Currently 18 homes are being ministered by local churches.