In Broward County, the poverty rate for female-headed families is two-and-a-half times higher than in all families, even though the percentage has dropped from 32 percent in 1990 to 29 percent in 2003. Some 39 percent of the 31,000 black families in this county are headed by women.

In Miami-Dade County, the statistics are more distressing. Female-headed families comprise 25 percent of all families in the county but account for 50 percent of the families below the poverty line. Among black families, 69 percent of single-parent black families headed by a woman live below the poverty line.

In other words, when the male is absent from the home, there is a substantially greater chance that the woman and her children will  live in poverty and will have to cope with the despair and sense of helplessness and hopelessness that can often accompany being in the economic underclass.

That, though, is only one aspect of the problems that are created when a man makes a baby and then deserts the mother and child. Poverty in itself, though an added burden to overcome, has not prevented children from succeeding, with the right guidance — from their fathers, particularly, who are their authority figures and the role models, who help them navigate the world as they, in turn, grow into men.

Absent the male, and given the pressures of poverty, too many young black men take on anti-social behavior that soon cause them to run afoul of the law, end up in prison and often adversely affects destroy any chance they may have of a better future.

None of this should be news to black men. They see it as part of every day life. They see children, especially boys, grow up with little hope of being successful as adults. They see them dropping out of school early and having little chance of a college education.

They see them on the street corners absorbing the alternative culture of guns and drugs and jail.
Whose responsibility are they?

They are the responsibility of their fathers. They are the responsibility of the men who helped bring them into the world, men who can have no excuse for shirking their duties as fathers. They should feel only shame if their children are left, with their mothers, to fend for themselves and if the only positive male contact the children have is with other, kind, men who extend the mantle of fatherhood to boys and girls not their own by being mentors and role models.

It is an almost timeless debate now as to why men can be so callous as to make babies and then turn their backs on them. Whatever the cause, this community sickness can be cured only if institutions such as the church and the school  adequately socialize black men so they can grow into rounded human beings who accept their responsibilities in society.

This much cannot be in doubt: There can be no excuse for men who make children not to be fathers to those children. If anything, that is the true message of Father’s Day.