New Dad Diaries 25: The Father Hood – Carey Casey (part 3) on Fatherlessness




Chronicling life as a new father to his beautiful firstborn child – daughter Thea – Chris Kerr’s goal is to provide all men experiencing fatherhood for the first time with some invaluable tips and tricks as they are learned – the hard way. This week – the final part of Chris’s interview with the legendary Carey Casey, discussing the fatherlessness crisis – and the way out.

If you are a regular reader of the New Dad Diaries, or indeed the print version of Sorted, then you will be aware of the fatherlessness crisis. Too many kids are growing up today with little to no relationship with their dad, and the consequences to them and those around them is devastating.   

One man who has been a champion for such kids (and indeed the adults they grow into) is Carey Casey.   As a pastor and chaplain, Carey has supported many people who suffered the wounds of fatherlessness.  Carey also sat on Barack Obama’s White House Taskforce for Fatherhood and Healthy Families, with a view to ensuring the US Government supports fathers in their capacity of raising children.   

Carey, you have a real passion for helping kids who have no involvement from their fathers.  Could you tell us what challenges they face?   

The United States, where I live, leads the world in fatherless homes. Almost half of the school-aged kids in America live in a home without their father present. In fact, 25 million kids will go to bed in America tonight without their biological father living below the same roof as them.  

These kids face a whole host of challenges, and the consequences go beyond that to our culture as a whole. Let me give you an example about the individual pain these kids and the adults they become can face – because, believe me, I still speak to 60, 70, 80 year old men who are hurting today because their Dad wasn’t present in their life. They didn’t hear him say, “I love you, son”.   

Kids without dads are far more likely to be living in poverty, drop out of school, live a life of crime and, for the girls, they are more likely to become pregnant as a teenager. If you think we are facing challenges today with poverty and crime, just wait to see what the future will look like for your kids and grandkids if we don’t do something about this fatherlessness crisis.   

That’s so true Carey.  I recently wrote a special report in Sorted magazine* and the data around kids who have no relationship with their dad is harrowing – not just for the individual but for their community also.    

That’s right. Whenever I see a societal crisis I ask, “How would responsible fathering have made a difference in this situation?” I usually find a father-angle straight away. Take for example mass shootings that happen in schools. You will see a glaring point of similarity – the perpetrator had no dad; he was absent from their life. The same goes for your average gang member and so on. A present father is really important. 

Many new fathers reading the New Dad Diaries will be doing so because they didn’t have a relationship with their father and so they don’t have anyone to model or speak to about how to be a great dad. What would you say to them?  

Whenever I do a Championship Fathering workshop I ask the men in the room a question:  “What handoff did you get?”

So, just like in an Olympic relay, the handoff is important. You can be the fastest runner on the track but if you receive a bad handoff from your teammate you can lose the race. Well, we have already seen that is true for kids who don’t have present dads. But just by a dad being there, the statistics I spoke about earlier get reversed.   

So, the fact that your readers who are new dads have chosen to be a present father means their kids are already winning in life. Then the next step is learning what you didn’t learn from your dad, and we spoke about loving, coaching and modelling in the last part of this interview. That’s a great place to start! 

Now, there are things you will be able to do, that normal people couldn’t, because of your history. Your hunger to be what your dad couldn’t be for you is a real indication of that.   

The scale of absent fathers is already enormous, and it is growing quickly even here in the UK.  Where’s the hope in reversing the current trend?

My dad was in Washington DC the day Martin Luther King gave the “I have a dream” speech. Did you know that the speech was almost never given?   

The night before, Dr King’s colleagues were working with him to craft his speech. And they said, whatever you say, do not talk about that damn dream! Now, he had been sharing that dream for two years in different settings. But they told him – don’t talk about that dream.They told him to tell the people, we need housing and jobs and so forth.   

And so, that’s what Dr King started to do. He was giving a polysyllabic speech, scripted for him by others when all of a sudden a gospel singer called Mahalia Jackson called out to him and said, “Martin, tell them about the dream!”

So he put his prepared speech down and started telling 250,000 people about his dream, and this particular line really hit people emotionally: ‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’  

So, one of the greatest speeches that was ever given, was almost not given! But notice what he said. He was being a father that day. Everybody could identify with that. You can never erase, or scratch from the record, where he talked about housing, education, economics, but the bit that spoke to the world was when he was speaking as a father.

My hope comes from God the Father first. It’s His will for dads to be present in their kids’ lives and He can reach in and change the story. But I also take hope from the fact that, as the way Dr King’s speech was received demonstrates, men are moved by being a father. In some cases, we just have to reconnect people to that.  

If you could give one message about the fatherless crisis to the dads reading this, what would it be?  

As you seek to become an effective father yourself, you may discover that your kids aren’t the only ones who need you. Many children don’t have a dad involved in their lives. Championship fathering means being a father to your own children first – and then extending that love to others.   

There are many ways to do this. You can volunteer in your church’s youth ministry or coach a sports team or you can make an effort with your kids friends and the kids in your neighbourhood.   

A huge thank you to Carey – and his wife Melanie who set it all up – for their valuable time.

Chris Kerr

Chris is a husband to Alicia and father to Thea, who is the subject of his columns on Fatherhood for Sorted.  In his spare time he works for a national law firm in an executive capacity and provides crisis leadership consultancy support for non-profits across the UK.  He attends Urban Crofters Church in Cardiff.  A keen weekend adventurer, Chris is regularly spotted in the sea or on mountains.

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