A new study on fatherhood published a few days ago by the American Academy of Pediatrics highlights that dads are amazing and extremely important to a child’s growth and development. It references the notion of societal and cultural obstacles and makes specific suggestions for pediatricians to better engage fathers. Obviously this is a great study but it’s not really saying anything new and I left the study wishing it addressed a greater need–improving the rates of adoption such that each child has a father or at least some sort of parental figure.
Fathers are one of life’s greatest first gifts to a child. Can you imagine starting life without at least one parent? Or being a young adult without the guidance and help of a parental figure to lend support and show you the way?
According to AdoptUSKids there are roughly 108K children in the foster care/adoption system waiting to find a home. I wonder if (more) pediatricians could play a role in helping to identify suitable placements for children? They see thousands of families each week, perhaps they could flag possible candidates? Or, perhaps pediatricians could help debunk some of the myths associated with adoption? I have always thought it was “easier and faster” to adopt internationally but apparently that’s not necessarily true.
And then there’s the politically incorrect but frequent concern that adoption leads to parenting a troubled child with an array of mental or developmental issues. Who among us doesn’t have issues of some sort during adolescence? Are you only supposed to be able to adopt “perfect” children without any challenges or needs? I know it can seem difficult to adopt someone that’s “healthy” only to later learn there are several issues and that may not be ideal or something that’s planned, but that’s the nature of life. If pediatricians are going to elevate their involvement with fathers as this new study hopes, maybe they can also help to better educate potential families about adoption in general? Maybe they can proactively help to allay myths and concerns and be a conduit between waiting children and loving families.
My sister (the pediatrician) is rolling her eyes at me by now if she’s made it this far in the article. She’s thinking, “who has time for that?” Doctors are so pressed for time with patients that dealing with the immediate health issue is often all that’s possible. But this is too great an issue and too great a need for us to not continue to try to figure this out and pediatricians are in a unique position to offer insight and assistance. How can we fix this? Can we fight to get insurance companies to cover this type of counseling–physicians could bill insurance for consulting with a family to the point of applying for adoption? Perhaps more overall studies about the benefits of adoption to health and society as a whole such that it becomes a natural part of any routine wellness visit? If we can spend time and energy updating a study about the importance of fathers on the lives of children and want more fathers to engage with children then we also need to explore the ways we can ensure each child has a father or parental figure.
This Father’s Day let’s celebrate all of the wonderful parental figures in our lives but let’s also remember the many children that still need time, love, and attention.
Note: In honor of Father’s Day, the American Academy of Pediatrics is encouraging fathers to share their stories, photos and experiences about fatherhood on Twitter by using #DadsAre.