The first clear memory I have of my father exemplifies every moment after. The lake lapped softly against the posts of weathered, bone-dry dock upon which I stood. I curled my toes into the splintery wood, blinked back the intense, hot Texas sun and leapt blind, for the first time, into waters well over my head. I didn't have to see my father to know he'd be there, in the water, to catch me. All my life, my father's presence has been certain as the sun; I've never wondered if he'd be there for me when I needed him.

But one out of three children in the United States—more than 15 million—live without the certainty of their father's presence. Among industrialized countries, the United States is a world leader of fatherless homes, surpassed only by Belgium, Estonia, and the United Kingdom, with single mothers heading up a quarter of all U.S. households. Since the 1960s, the number of single-parent homes have more than tripled, and the bulk of those households (76%) are fatherless homes. Tragically, this number doesn't include circumstances in which the father technically lives with the family, but is emotionally or physically absent.

Whether through abandonment, incarceration, death, or workaholism, fatherlessness is a root of many of our contemporary social ills. According to a widely cited report from the U.S. Department of Justice, children from fatherless home are 5 times more likely to commit suicide, 32 times more likely to run away, 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders, 14 times more likely to commit rape, 9 times more likely to drop out of high school, 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances, 9 times more likely to end up in a state-operated institution, and ...

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