Business leaders do a lot for a lot of good causes. But what about fatherlessness?

Quick, think of a few companies you admire. Include your own. Now, what social, civic or charitable causes do they support? Diversity? Environment? Cancer? Climate? LGBT? Animals? Diabetes? Veterans? Equality?…

Thankfully, many businesses and their people have the time, talent and treasure to devote to numerous causes they believe in. However, I believe there is one cause, a big one, that businesses unfortunately overlook.

It is directly related to children living in poverty, dropping out of school, getting arrested, going to jail, getting pregnant, committing suicide and other tragic outcomes. It is spreading, leaving hopelessness and despair in its wake. It is the epidemic of fatherlessness.

Very simply, too many kids are being raised without fathers. Yes, there are situations requiring mothers to raise children by themselves. Sadly, however, kids without dads are becoming more of the norm than the exception. The results are as disastrous as they are well-researched and documented.

Consider:

  • In the United States, 17.4 million children lived in father-absent homes in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That is roughly the combined total populations of New Mexico, Arkansas, West Virginia, Mississippi, Nevada, Nebraska and Kansas.
  • Children living in female-headed homes with no spouse present have a poverty rate of 47.6 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. That is more than four times the rate for children living in married-couple families.
  • Individuals from father-absent homes are 279 percent more likely to carry guns and deal drugs than their peers living with their fathers, according to research by Andrea N. Allen and Celia C. Lo.
  • “Children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison,” then-Sen. Barack Obama pointed out in a June 2008 speech.

Businesses should take note. Why?

Let’s see. Business people spot needs and develop solutions. They manage risk and prevent problems from metastasizing. They build the long-term value of the enterprise. But what happens when children fail in school, develop no skills and do not learn to support themselves as independent adults? Such children today will not become the employees, customers and clients that businesses will need tomorrow.

And a growing percentage of the workforce — single moms raising poor, undisciplined, inadequately supervised, lonely and troubled kids at home — will be distracted, stressed and unproductive on the job. Should not businesses be concerned, if for no other reason than their own preservation?

But there is much more at stake than business continuity. At risk is the survival of our ideals of equality, fairness, public safety and civility. Should not business leaders pay attention to a root cause of what is destroying the very fabric of our society?

I applaud businesses for their charitable efforts to build a better world. In choosing what efforts to support, I suggest they include fatherlessness, a driver of many of today’s most pressing problems. It will take courage to commit to the mission of rebuilding families, but successful business leaders are unafraid of big challenges.

Our communities and our country cry out for their best efforts to reverse the erosion of fatherhood and restore fathers to the vital roles they have historically played in the lives of their children.

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