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Someone needs to teach the boys how to be men

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By Alice Du Pont

For the second time this year a young father has been charged with killing his infant child. In January, 18-year-old Kearse Raeshon Bradham was charged with second-degree murder in the death of his 2-month-old daughter. Last week, 20-year-old Bobby Matthew Dukes Jr. was also charged with second-degree murder in the death of his 3-month-old son.

The circumstances surrounding both deaths are similar. Both young men used the word "frustrated" when confessing to the crime after initially denying any involvement. Both were unemployed, living in a home provided by the mothers of the children. In both instances, they said, the babies were crying and would not stop. Both children were ill and the mothers of the infants were at home, though not in the same room, at the time the babies were killed. Both men bashed the baby's heads on a piece of wooden furniture.

It's too late for both of these young men who are now facing a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted. There are other young men and women who, in my opinion, are becoming parents too soon and don't know how to cope.

During the press conference last week, Lt. Jim Corder of the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office said there were 500 infant deaths under the age of 5 months old this past year. Of that number, 39 percent were killed by their fathers.

Infant deaths at the hands of parents is nothing I ever thought of before last week's death but as I began to ask questions, I found that there are no programs for young  men. There is no incentive for young men not to become fathers and there are no structured mentoring programs on abstinence in the county geared directly to young boys and men.

There are programs, all of the ones I just named and more, available for young women. There are also support groups for unexpected pregnancies as well as programs that pair mature women with young mothers to mentor them through the first year of the baby's birth.

Arrie Battle, executive director of Woman-To-Woman, said there is nothing in the county that targets young men when they become fathers. She agrees that something has to be done to educate young men.

New programs that start and stop are not the answer. The answer lies in this community where adult men, preferably fathers, uncles, cousins or friends, intervene when they find that a teenager is about to become a father. There are some things that money cannot buy and social programs cannot fix.

The only way to fix what ails these boy fathers is for someone, who is already a man, to teach them how to treat the precious lives they have brought into the world.