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U.S. rep says nurturing fatherhood important

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, said, in addition to the opioid epidemic facing the nation, America is dealing with another major problem.

“There’s a another crisis feeding into this, and no one is talking about this” he said. “There are a staggering number of children in America growing up in fatherless homes.”

Last year, Johnson addressed the subject in his book, “Raising Fathers,” in which he hopes to use his own life experience to encourage responsible parenting.

The book was released independently through Create Space and, on Thursday, Johnson spoke with The Tribune about the subject as Father’s Day approached.

“Just to give you some statistics, one in four children are growing up without their biological fathers,” he said of information compiled last year for the book. “In 1960, it was one in 10.”

Johnson, 63, has represented southern Ohio’s 6th congressional district since 2011 and is father and grandfather.

Johnson relates his own experiences as a apparent, as well as those of his childhood and growing up an with alcoholic father.

The congressman said the long-term implications for those raised without a father “are staggering,” with children more likely to have low grades, drop out of school, have out-of-wedlock children, face a life of poverty or end up in jail as adults.

Johnson said the rise in absentee fathers is a “societal issue,” stemming from many causes, including the opioid epidemic.

“We have a lot of fathers addicted to opioids and are incapable of providing that fatherly role,” he said.

He said there has also been a de-emphasis on “the traditional American family.”

“I come from a generation, even through I was raised in a dysfunctional home, where people tried to tough it out and make sense of life.

He said divorce has become “so easy,” only requiring a quick visit to a courthouse and filling out a few papers and that society needs to better promote marriage as an institution.

“We need to get people to rethink that,” he said. “Relationships on any level, whether professional or in families, are always going to face challenges.”

Johnson said society has become too “instantaneous,” from drive-through restaurants to Internet shopping, and that many do not have the patience to work out relationship issues.

“They seem casual and easily discarded,” he said. “Abandoning relationships is not a cure to problems and challenges. They just transfer it to someone else, if they choose to marry again.”

Johnson also called for increase in the role of churches and faith, stating that he was raised by a Christian mother and he found people who “stood in the gap” for him there, as he was growing up.

“I spent my youth in groups at churches, and I think churches play a role in identifying those who are fatherless in a community.”

He cited Psalm 10:14 as a source of inspiration.

“But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand,” he recited. “ The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.”

Johnson also stressed the need to “empower individuals” to address the issue.

“Whether its groups like Big Brothers and Big Sisters or something informal — if you know a friend or acquaintance — taking a child to a ballgame, or to the mall to do their Christmas shopping — they’ll never forget that,” he said.