In a community once known throughout the world as “The Divorce Capital of the World,” it’s important to teach the importance of having a mother and a father in a home.
Kiwanian Kathy Schleier of Dalton’s Family Frameworks brought in Julie Baumgardner of First Things First of Chattanooga to tell the local civic club about the importance of a two-parent family.
Baumgardner explained that a high divorce rate affects the entire community.
“We have a real issue going on with our children,” Baumgardner said. “If we think that any family formation works, I’ve got news for you.”
She urged the Kiwanians to “get behind Family Frameworks.”
“What she (Kathy Schleier) is doing is what’s needed in your community in order to have a ready to work workforce and to help decrease poverty,” Baumgardner said.
While some studies show that 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, she said there are things that make your chances better.
“If you come from a family where your parents are not divorced your chances of divorce decrease, if you meet the person you are going to marry through friends or family your chances of divorce decrease again, if you do not live together before you marry your chance of divorce decreases again,” Baumgardner said. “If you graduate from college, your chance of divorce decreases even further. If you have the same religious belief, your chance of divorce decreases again. If you do not have a child out of wedlock your chance of divorce decreases again.”
The speaker said First Things First started in 1997 and is dedicated to helping families “through education, collaboration and mobilization in the community.” The group partners with Family Frameworks and other such groups to strengthen the family.
Since the establishment of First Things First in Chattanooga there has been a 29 percent decrease in divorce filings and a 63 percent decrease in teen out-of-wedlock pregnancies.
“There’s recent research that we spend $112 billion annually on divorce and unwed pregnancies,” the speaker said. “In Tennessee, the number is $757 million. In Georgia, it’s $1.46 billion.”
Baumgardner said education plays a role in decisions.
“There’s a striking exodus from marriage, especially among high schoolers, but not college- educated young people,” she said.
“You might say that high schoolers are not interested in marriage. Not true. Ninety-three percent of high schoolers say they are very interested in marriage. They are very scared of divorce. They’ve been through it. We see cohabitation on the rise. We see one living together and they break up and they go live with someone else, and then they go live with someone else.”
She told the Kiwanians that beliefs about divorce are also inaccurate.
“Divorced children are resilient,” she said. “It’s not a big deal. And we can move on with our lives and everybody needs to be — quote, unquote — happy.”
“Marriage is not a private arrangement,” Baumgardner said. “A divorce impacts a neighborhood, a school, a workplace, a church. It impacts an entire community.”
“Children from broken homes often don’t know how to do relationships. A great example of that is what we’re seeing with online relationships. They really have no idea how to make relationships work.”
The speaker said the U.S. spends $100 billion a year on “father absence.”
“One in three children lives in a home without their biological father,” she said.
Many men are told they are replaceable.
“That can’t be further from the truth,” she added. “Children in fatherless homes have negative life outcomes and two to three times the rate of children in married two-parent families. A CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) study indicates children growing up with their two married biological parents have a lower rate of delayed medical care.
“We need to stop talking and acting like fathers don’t matter. We really need to help fathers know you do matter. You are not replaceable. If men just understood how much their children crave their time and attention. If they just understood that.”
And she said women often have very unrealistic expectations of their husbands.
“Quit trying to make men act like women,” she said.
“And we parent very differently. The rough and tumble play that dads do is very appropriate and we women are like ‘Now you all stop that, somebody’s going to get hurt, and don’t come crying to me.’ That’s what dad’s suppose to do. You’re teaching healthy risk taking. Believe it or not, it’s fathers who teach empathy, not women. It’s fathers who teach confidence. Both parties need to be at the table.”
“Living without a dad doubles a child’s chance of dropping out of school. That is huge,” she said. “By the third grade, boys with present fathers scored higher on every achievement test. Reading on grade level by third grade is a good indicator of whether you will stay in school versus dropping out. Those who are not reading at a third-grade level in the third grade have a significant higher chance of dropping out.”
The average annual income of a high school dropout in 2005 was $17,299. A high school graduate’s income averaged $26,933.
“A child living with his or her divorced mother compared to living with both parents is 375 percent more likely to need professional treatment,” Baumgardner said.
Ninety-five percent of young people coming through the Georgia juvenile court system are from single-parent families.
“Nearly 80 percent of long-term poverty occurs in broken homes or never married families. Children born of parents who do not marry spend on average 57 percent of their lives in poverty,” Baumgardner said.
“Married workers are wealthier, they tend to be healthier, they are better workers on the whole because they are not living the same type of lifestyle that single people tend to live. Because they have a broader network, their ability to secure assistance seems to be greater.
“Conservatively in your community each divorce costs $30,000.
University of Georgia research shows that that number is “extremely conservative.”
For employers, she said, “divorce costs $3,729 pre-divorce, about the same amount during the divorce, and $862 post-divorce for a total of $8,319.”
People going through divorce “tend to be very preoccupied, many times they need to leave, or they don’t come in. They’re not as productive as they were. They often distract other people by talking to them about what is going on.”
And children of single parents “just don’t know how to think anymore.”
Baumgardner said the “three R’s” remain important, but other skills are needed. Professionalism and work ethic, written communications, oral communications, teamwork, critical thinking and problem solving were mentioned.
“We need to help young men become marriageable men,” she said. “There are so many guys out there who have no earthly idea how to have a relationship.”
“They used to be afraid of girls because they were afraid of rejection,” Baumgardner said. “Now they are afraid because they have no clue how to read facial expressions, they have no clue how to carry on a conversation, they have no clue how to engage. Why? Video games ... texting ... Facebook. All they’re doing is going online. They have no idea how to interact in person.”