Let’s “Reimagine” Public Safety Built around Involved Fathers

Pastor Belinda Baugh addressing community residents in a “City of Hope” march in Petersburg: Fathers, your children need you! Photo credit: Belinda Baugh

by James A. Bacon

When you ask a group of politicians, activists and intellectuals to put together a plan to “reimagine” public safety, you get a report like the one just issued by a City of Richmond task force. It calls for measures such as routing many 9-1-1 calls to mental health and conflict-resolution professionals instead of the police, reallocating dollars from police to social services, connecting youth with community resources, and creating an Office of Restorative Justice and Community Safety.

More money. More programs. More jobs for bureaucrats and activists. It’s basically the same failing approach that inner cities have tried to address poverty and crime since the inauguration of the Great Society in the 1960s.

One wonders if the authors talked to anyone besides other politicians, activists and intellectuals… if, for example, they talked to people akin to those quoted in this Richmond Times-Dispatch article about Petersburg. Richmond is not Petersburg, of course, but the two cities are sociologically similar. They both have large populations of poor African-Americans concentrated in largely segregated neighborhoods. Petersburg has the highest per-capita murder rate of any jurisdiction in Virginia; Richmond has the third highest.

Travis Christian

Petersburg Police Chief Travis Christian has a very different take on the root causes of violence. The large majority of killings in Petersburg, he says, involve disputes over drugs, gambling or just bad feelings between people who are unable to resolve their differences without violence. Says he:

None of our [homicides] this year has been as a result of self-protection or being protective of a loved one. The motive in most cases has just been anger … and having difficulty resolving conflicts without resulting in gun violence. It’s really unfortunate. It’s one of those things that we’re seeing as a trend, and not just in Petersburg. It’s the way of society right now.

Belinda Baugh, pastor of New Divine Worship Center, has led marches through Petersburg neighborhoods to protest the killings. She has pushed for a community center where young people occupy their time instead of hanging out on the streets — the kind of measure the Richmond group might call for. But she also points to the role of absentee fathers. In her marches, children carried posters that read, “Daddy, I need you. I need my family.”

We were trying to empower [fathers] as well, to let them know, hey guys, we hear you, we see the struggle, we know you guys are going through some stuff out here, but put the guns down and [embrace] a future that awaits you.

Many criminologists contend that fathers play a crucial role in the socialization of their children, teaching young men how to resolve their differences without violence. The plague of absentee fathers in inner cities and other pockets of poverty creates a generation of young men who know no other way.

According to Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis data, Petersburg in 2018 had the second-highest percentage among Virginia localities of single-parent households with children — 70.0%, exceeded only by the Southside city of Emporia at 77%. The word “father” does not appear in the Richmond report. The terms “single-mother” and “single-mother household” are likewise absent.

There may be some good ideas in the Richmond report — ensuring that police get de-escalation training, for instance — but any set of “reforms” that fails to address the powerful correlation between absentee fathers, poorly socialized young men, and the proclivity of those young men to settle disagreements through violence is not worth much.

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39 responses to “Let’s “Reimagine” Public Safety Built around Involved Fathers

  1. Another case of government picking Winners and Losers. In this case going back to the 60’s the winners are supposed to be unwed baby mommas and society.. ha ha… baby moma got money for babies, more babies more $$$… and society got screwed again with incredible numbers of illegitimate children and unwed mothers.. The latest statistic being 70% of blacks children are born out of wedlock..
    Way to go you government loving folk… you really need to stop picking winners and losers… you’ll never be good at it..

  2. How do fathers end up poor and “absentee” to start with?

    How does that happen?

  3. The correct answer is what happened to them when they were kids trying to get an education. If they failed at that – guess what happens next?

    ” Many criminologists contend that fathers play a crucial role in the socialization of their children, teaching young men how to resolve their differences without violence. The plague of absentee fathers in inner cities and other pockets of poverty creates a generation of youth men who know no other way.”

    They do indeed but if they are undereducated and in poverty – guess what – happens… the “plague” of “absentee fathers” is not only “inner-city” by the way.

    But you’re not going to fix this by blaming them or taking actions against them for being “bad” fathers… and “bad” young men.

    This goes back to school and what happens there.

    It’s too late when they are grown up and uneducated and screwed.

  4. “… what happened to them when they were kids trying to get an education. If they failed at that – guess what happens next?”
    Like every other child the opportunity is there for them to get an education,, a free educational no less,,, of course with liberals, saying 2+2 doesn’t have to =4, and no school discipline, and for language we learn ebonics,,, you see what the results are…
    As long as liberals don’t have standards, find racism everywhere, and otherwise do everything except educate the cycle will continue…

  5. The number one thing we can do as a society is to promote responsible fatherhood and two parent families. There are so many disincentives in this area that we need to create an overriding incentive for fathers to be around. Perhaps it is time to reintroduce the sigma against producing children out of wedlock?

  6. Maybe start with letting them out of prison…??🤷‍♂️

  7. It’s “dads” fault his kid will grow up also uneducated and poor and likely incarcerated and it’s “liberals” fault for point it out and advocating we do
    something different than what we currently do.

    Blame is easy, irresponsible, and self-fullfilling.

    And no, it’s not just certain folks who live in the inner-cities.

    For instance, if you look at Henrico County – there are dozens of schools with low-scoring kids… also.

    • And that’s what LBJ said in the 1960s when he launched, with congressional support, the Great Society and its many programs. How well did that work?

      We all want to succeed in life, even as we define success uniquely. Part of being successful is making the right choices more often than not and being held accountable for them. Quite often, making the right decision involves delay of gratification. It applies across the board from the student who stays home and studies instead of going out with friends to the athlete who makes himself shoot 100 baskets every single day even though he wants to play video games. It’s learning from our experiences and moving forward. It’s holding ourselves to meet our goals and standards. This is universal. It extends beyond race, creed, ethnic background, gender and age. It’s part of human nature, often not easy, but always what we are able to do.

  8. More stupidity than usual from the usual party of SCIENCE! suspects…
    Of course, Daniel Patrick Moynihan must have been a horrible racist for pointing out the perverse incentives of welfare.
    It just “happened” that illegitimacy, black and white, has risen significantly since we started paying girls – and I mean girls – to have babies. My eyes were opened upon the birth of my first child in the 80s. I went to the SSA to get a SSN for him at the SSA office in Western Henrico. Immediately in front of me was a black girl – she couldn’t have been more than 15, with her mother and grandmother (assuming based on ages and behaviors). “Grandma” couldn’t have been 50 and it seemed to me the elders were teaching the youngster the ropes as a rite of passage. The numbers have only gotten worse.
    This didn’t just “happen.” Somehow, people once knew it was less than ideal to have babies out of wedlock. Yet the SCIENCE! people say it is education and false convictions and police brutality and how dare you suggest it is wrong to just procreate and “live” on the government dime (but not really live, subsist).
    I have a solution. It’s kinda old… First – use the Catholic birth control method – hold an aspirin between your knees. (Men are pigs and will always love to have no strings sex – young girls should know that and value themselves more). Second, graduate from high school, then get jobs and get married, then have babies…in that order. OH, but the schools suck? Then quit allowing the teachers’ unions (oh, sorry, in VA, “associations”) to control the policies and mandate their one-size fits all mediocrity of a product…

  9. It is more common for Black men to live with their kids than not and when they do they tend to be more involved than their white or Hispanic counterparts:


    • Yep, this has been tracked since the 90s. Black separated fathers, who live in the same city, spend far more time with their kids than do fathers of other races in the same circumstances.

      Further, as determined by the courts, black fathers who are able to provide child support are less likely to be dead beat dads. But, hey, that don’t fit the stereotype.

      Say, ain’t it about time for another “Sign on The Lawn” piece?

      • Remember, cancel culture is bad unless it’s someone putting a bad word on a sign on a door at a state university.

        • OK, let’s try again…Is illegitimacy a social good?
          Not blacks versus whites which is all the racist Left wants to talk about.
          A very simple question applicable to all people requiring either a 3 letter answer or a 2 letter answer, which apparently is too difficult to do. I had this same problem trying to get an answer to “Is cheating OK?” with regard to the election. So, I’ll make it even easier.
          Is illegitimacy a social good?
          A. Yes
          B. No

          • I don’t know that it is a social good but it’s also not the boogeyman some say it is if you look at the issue on a bigger scale than just the US.

            Other countries have high levels of illegitimacy and it does not seem to result in the problems that are claimed to result from it in the US.

            Is that true? that other countries don’t have the probems we do that are attributed to illegitimacy?

            If so, what does that really mean?

            Kids need role models. But I’m not convinced they can only be parents and I’m speaking as someone who both parents were in house but also both were alcoholics and racist and I hold neither in high repute.

  10. Ah… a cherry-picked “study” – from the “experts!”
    This is not about race – it is about illegitimacy, and illegitimacy is a bigger problem numerically in “black” communities.
    I don’t even have to see the study to pick apart the numbers – the most obvious is measuring number of fathers and not number of children without fathers. It would seem fathers living with kids are having fewer kids because they have to pay for and raise them and are being responsible. St. Jacob Blake had how many kids with how many women?
    But back to the point of universal applicability – it is not about race – it is about illegitimacy. Can we agree that raising children outside of marriage is not a social good?

    • Agreed — the issue is out-of-wedlock births and absentee fathers, not race.

      I had a housekeeper a couple of years ago, a young white woman. Very sweet, very devoted to her daughter’s upbringing. But the father was a drug addict, in and out of the house, and too consumed with his own issues to be any kind of father. The young woman’s personal life was a shambles. She and the father were in and out of court, disputing over child custody. She made poor financial decisions. Her car was always breaking down. She was constantly late for work even when the car was running. After bending over backwards to accommodate her, we finally had to let her go. Anyway, I shudder to think what the little girl’s life will be like with an absentee father and a mother in a state of continual crisis.

      • If it’s not about race then whoever wrote this:

        “They both have large populations of poor African-Americans concentrated in largely segregated neighborhoods.”

        Sure has egg on their face! I’m glad it wasn’t you!

        • I think the point he was trying to make for people who could bother to think was that the cities had similarities so he could contrast the Petersburg police chief’s opinion versus Richmond. Go to opioid infected Appalachia and find two “white” towns to contrast whatever the causes of societal decay may be there. Maybe it won’t be a “white” problem, just like illegitimacy is not exclusively a “black” problem.

        • Well this is a continuing “theme” in BR but efforts are made to keep blog posts separate so no direct claim about the color of folks in the innter cities is actually explicitly stated.

          And yes, it really does ignore the real issue of less/lower educated parents who often work for low level wages – and their lives are often in chaos.

          So the easy way out is to blame the parents for the childs plight and basically say the child is screwed and will likely grow up to be a dad like his dad was… “absent”, uneducated and poor and often in trouble with the law.

          • Really, you people of the Left are the racists. You think the “folks” in the “inner cities” lack human agency? You think there are no “folks” not a “people of color” who have low income and live in areas with crime and crappy schools? And there is no human agency involved? How come me and my brothers have ended up in different places? My children? I can’t look at choices made and see differences? People have to drop out of school? Become alcoholic? Drug addicted? Violent?
            The point remains, no matter how much you wish to obfuscate and hint at racism for saying it – illegitimacy is not a social good, for all people.

          • ” Over 5.1 million babies were born in the European Union (EU) in 2016. In eight of the 28 Member States, the majority of babies were born outside marriage, while in eight other member States two-thirds of babies were born to married parents.

            Proportion of births outside marriage highest in France, lowest in Greece

            With six in every ten babies born to unmarried parents, France had the largest proportion (59.7%) of live births outside marriage in the EU in 2016. France was closely followed by Bulgaria and Slovenia (both 58.6%). More than half of births also occurred outside marriage in Estonia (56.1%), Sweden (54.9%), Denmark (54.0%), Portugal (52.8%) and the Netherlands (50.4%).”


            Yet – almost every country in the EU surpasses the US in education attainment on standardized tests.

            how can that be?

          • Easier tests?

          • So illegitimacy is a social good? We need more of it?
            Or are you remarking how our public school systems pretty largely suck, and even moreso in poor areas? Or could that be more complicated than simply money and race? People in poor schools cannot escape a bad education? Everyone is doomed by the accident of where and to whom born?

  11. What is so hard about answering the question?
    Here is the answer – illegitimacy is not a social good.
    Is it the only factor?
    No. See how easy that was?
    And yet there are studies showing being in a home with bad parents in a bad marriage is better than single parent.
    Is there a way to stop this multi-generational failure? Do the Petersburg police chief and Pastor Baugh have valid points to make? Can we figure out ways to encourage better behaviors?
    I know one better way, and based on the way the usual suspects reacted to the SCOTUS saying the First Amendment is not to be abridged, heads will explode – let a charter school be formed that will operate on explicitly Christian principles. The parents will be knocking down the doors to get their kids in and it will have better performance…which is why the teachers’ sorta unions and unions oppose them.

    • re: ” And yet there are studies showing being in a home with bad parents in a bad marriage is better than single parent.”

      really? I’d serious doubt that. The biigest percent of murder and assault is domestic violence. Believe me, there is no good coming from a drunk Dad with a butcher knife chasing mom and threatening to gut her.

      The problem here is that we’re looking for simple answers and they simply are not.

      It would be wonderful if we could wave a wand and fix it but that’s not reality.

      Half the kids in some European countries are out of wedlock and religion is dropping by significant percentages, but almost all European countries beat the pants off of us academically.

  12. “Half the kids in some European countries are out of wedlock and religion is dropping by significant percentages, but almost all European countries beat the pants off of us academically.”

    Totally uninformed BS in numerous respects. For example, kids born out of wedlock and/or religious background fare educationally substantially below kids with two stable live in parents and/or with religious upbringing. This has been established in study after study for years.

    As to France in particular, and Europe generally, educational achievement in K-12 has plunged since France’s adoption of American progressive education methodologies and standards in the late 1980s and early 1990’s all I have have discussed on this blog on the years in detail.
    For primer on these matters see, for example, E. D. Hirsch’s later works including:

    The Knowledge Deficit: Closing the Shocking Education Gap for American Children (2006)
    The Making of Americans: Democracy and Our Schools (2010)
    Why Knowledge Matters (2016)
    How to Educate a Citizen: The Power of Shared Knowledge to Unify a Nation (2020)

    • Here is an article published today in Aeon showing how active, highly involved fatherhood radically changes men and society for the better, and how the LACK of active, highly involved fatherhood promotes violence and high dysfunction in society, a book first published in September of this year .


      This of course is further confirmation of the groundbreaking work on the same subject set out in The Weirdest People in the World by Harvard professor Joseph Henrich.

      • Correction: the book The Weirdest People in the World was 1st published in September of this year; the Aeon article was published this morning.

      • Why is the Weird book, and the Aeon article, on fatherless children so vitally important today, times that demand what we read them? All boiled down, the base reasons are:

        The Weirdest People in the World explains how how the Catholic Church’s uncompromising demand that one man marry only one women who bore his children became the one essential building block of Western Civilization. In essence, this demand gave children the critical ingredient to their success, responsible and caring mothers and fathers. For, without responsible and caring mothers and fathers, the great majority of kids are lost in a dark and dysfunctional society, without opportunity, hope, or inherent value as individual human beings.

        Later, Martin Luther at the end of the dark ages, put this Christian idea on steroids when he demanded that mothers and fathers teach themselves and their children to read, thus become literate, fully aware, and cognitively advantaged, as empowered human beings, full and complete as human beings in God’s image. This was and still is the crowning achievement of the modern age of the human species.

        Now, why is the Aeon article important, the one found here”https://aeon.co/essays/how-raising-children-can-change-a-fathers-brain

        This article explains how highly involved fatherhood radically changes men and society for the better, and how the LACK of active, highly involved fatherhood promotes violence and high dysfunction in society. The article raises an important and novel insight. Heretofore, we have focused on the damage done to children by irresponsible fathers. Now we also know about the great damage that irresponsible fathers do to themselves; it often results in a downward spiral of human destruction not only for the child, but for their father, and their mother, and the entire community around them.

        So now we see how The Weird book and the Aeon fatherless article powerfully fit together for cumulative and exponential advantage and benefit, or living hell, in modern times.

  13. I’ll see if I can find the bad marriage two parent home is better than single parent, but meanwhile, here is this report from a guy who would seem to know…

  14. looking for authorotative cites….

    high percentage of one-parent familes in OECD countries also.

    Do one-parent households also do badly academically in OECD?

    If they do then why does the US still rank low compared to them?

  15. Ok…but still not germane. You would be comparing different groups of people in different systems and perhaps with different testing. But this point would probably still hold – the OECD students in a two parent family would do better than single parent family OECD students. I imagine this is a worldwide truth for all peoples.
    As to the bad marriage two parent household, I think I now remember the point (from reading about it some time ago) was that kids did better in a bad marriage household than the divorced household. I am not a fan of divorce either as I lived through it with my parents. I am very thankful that I had four friends whose parents, now that I am older and wiser, were unusually kind to me. Sadly, out of 10 parental figures only one remains…

    • I don’t know if one parent households in Europe do worese than two-parent and would have to see some data to confirm it but also why they still do better than us overall with PISA.

      Where we really fall down on PISA is on the low end. Our high kids are as high as the OECD kids but our lows are worse – lower scores and more of them with lower scores.

      ” About a fifth of American 15-year-olds scored so low on the PISA test that it appeared they had not mastered reading skills expected of a 10-year-old, according to Andreas Schleicher, director of education and skills at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which administers the exam.

      Those students, he said, face “pretty grim prospects” on the job market.”


      the entire article is informative

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