It was with profound sadness that I read last Sunday’s Courier-Post article on gangs in Camden. Sadness for the moms who have lost kids to violence. Sadness for the dim (and short) future of so many young men who see no choice but to submit to the allure of gangs. Sadness for the essence of what gangs insidiously offer to these vulnerable young men: a sense of family. Sadness to think that gangs, of all things, have become a poisonous and substitute source for the love, guidance, support, protection, purpose, advice, encouragement and discipline that real families — starting with moms and dads — are intended to give their kids.

I applaud the great work that the men in this article — coaches, police, former gang members and others — are doing to fill the gaps in these kids’ lives.

Let’s encourage these men to continue their heroic efforts. Let’s help these grieving and desperate mothers. Let’s look for solutions to the youth joblessness plaguing Camden. Let’s have the courage to offer parents educational choices that will allow their kids to escape failing schools and become employable.

And let’s do something else: Let’s take a fresh look at the importance of fathers. Over the last 50 years, we have witnessed the marginalization of fatherhood. While certain circumstances require that some mothers raise their kids alone, why have we deluded ourselves into thinking that single moms, no matter how hard they work, should be the norm in raising the next generation?

More than ever, kids need good fathers. It may take 50 more years to restore fathers to the vital roles they have historically played in the lives of their families, across virtually all societies and cultures, but I suggest we start today. How many more heartbreaking stories reflecting the tragedy of fatherlessness must be written before we do?

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