INTERVIEW: Organization aims to strengthen families

By Ryan Nobles - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – His father was a leading voice in the Republican Party for decades. Jack Kemp, who passed away in 2009, was once the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and the party's nominee for vice president. Today his son Jeff Kemp is carrying on his legacy by championing the cause of fatherhood across America.

Ryan Nobles: Of course, I'd be remiss as a Buffalo native not to point out that Jack Kemp was, of course, the quarterback of the Buffalo Bills. Jeff, who joins us now, played for a decade as a quarterback in the NFL. Thank you so much for being here.

Jeff Kemp: Thanks, Ryan, good to be with you.

Ryan Nobles: You have now made your full-time job the cause of encouraging men to take up their responsibilities as fathers. Why is that important?

Jeff Kemp: When I was in football, I had a lot of opportunities to go into schools and work with kids and usually when you see challenges in those situations, it's want not the kid, it's the family. And so you got to go upstream and realize that kids need love, time, training, discipline, and encouragement. I saw dad throwing a football with his son in the rain before school the other day out in Seattle when I was on a walk and that kid was happy as heck, so I look at some of the social science research and it shows to solve a lot of our problems and dropout rates, drug abuse and teen pregnancies, we need to look at how we can get dads more involve and more marriages to form to glue more dads to those families.

Ryan Nobles: The organization in Richmond that you're helping to support is called First Things First. They offer classes like daddy boot camp, which gives young fathers the skills to start parenting the right way. How do those things help?

Jeff Kemp: Well, they do this boot camp for new dads. They do classes on relationships for teenagers to know what a healthy relationship is and how to avoid bullying and power, and then they do young married and pre-marriage preparation classes as well as classes for other couples. The research has shown that couples who get training in skills of communication, conflict resolution, how to take a timeout when you're angry, how to plan time together and understand your differences - they last better, they have better satisfaction, they divorce less often and their kids are the beneficiaries.

Ryan Nobles: And you think I want not just a societal issue, but an economic one as well. Is will this help reduce the poverty rate if more fathers are engaged in families?

Jeff Kemp: There's six times the poverty rate if there's not a marriage or a divorce in the first six years of a child's life. So it's a huge impact on an economic opportunity, the school system's performance, attendance at college, and the thing here in Virginia, because of the lack of marriage or divorce, we have a $776 million a year taxpayer cost because of all the programs and lost revenue that families would have if they had been able to stay married, so it's not a negative message. It's a positive message. Let's give people the skills, the encouragement, the support system, so their dreams can be realized. Everyone wants to have a great relationship and love to be there for their kids, but we need coaching and help, a team effort.

Ryan Nobles: Thank so much for being here, we appreciate it.

See the video at right for the full interview.

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