by Jim Daly
Most of us would agree that family is important. We know instinctively that kids need a mother and a father in their lives, and that when one of those essential ingredients is missing, the results can be devastating. We understand that divorce hurts, and that its negative consequences can last for generations. It’s fairly easy to see that life works best when the family unit is strong. It is the building block of our society, and when it begins to crumble, the effects are painful-not just for individuals and families, but for the culture as a whole.
I know from firsthand experience what it looks like when a family disintegrates. My parents divorced when I was young, effectively removing my biological father from the scene. My mother remarried, but then died of cancer when I was in the 4th grade. When my siblings and I returned home from her funeral, our step-father came out of the bedroom with his suitcases packed. He walked away and never looked back. Two years later, we learned that our biological father had drunk himself to death in an abandoned warehouse. I wasn’t even out of elementary school yet, and I was an orphan.
I spent time in the foster care system and lived with family over the next few years. It was rough growing up without a stable, consistent place to call home-and without a mom and dad to cling to. The absence of a loving father figure, in particular, had a devastating effect on me, as it does for so many children. Thankfully, God intervened and prevented my life from going completely off the rails. I’m so grateful that He never took His hand off me during those dark years. He brought people into my life who loved me and shared Christ with me. He took the broken pieces of my life and made them into something beautiful.
Sadly, more and more children today are growing up in circumstances similar to those I experienced. In 2008, more than 40 percent of new mothers in our nation were unmarried. The number of cohabiting couples has grown 1,000 percent since 1960, with almost 5 million couples currently living together. Perhaps not surprisingly, the American divorce rate has nearly doubled since 1960, as well. And there are currently more than 120,000 children in the foster care system in the United States awaiting adoption-kids who long for a mom and a dad and a place to call home.
Kids who come from fractured families-and especially those who lack the influence of a positive father figure in their lives-face an uphill battle. Author and researcher David Blankenhorn has called fatherlessness “our most urgent social problem.” I couldn’t agree more. Dr. Blankenhorn makes the case that the failure of fathers to connect with their children and their children’s mothers can be tied directly to a host of serious social problems: domestic violence and child sexual abuse, poor educational attainment and dropping out of school, increased drug use, higher crime rates and incarceration, unemployment, poor physical and mental health, street violence, sexual aggression and dramatically increased levels of poverty. The social sciences consistently report that fatherlessness pushes the frequency of these difficult problems dramatically higher-by five, ten, and sometimes even twenty-fold.
I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that even in homes in which the nuclear family remains intact, the internal and external pressures can be enormous. The bottom line is that married couples and parents need all the help they can get! And Focus on the Family is committed to coming alongside them in the challenges they face every day.
We believe that true, lasting hope for the institution of the family can only be found in the timeless wisdom of Scripture. The Psalmist reminds us that “God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6), and the Bible consistently describes the relationship between God and His people as either that of a parent and child or, in the New Testament passages concerning Christ and the Church, as that of bridegroom and bride. The Christian faith offers a remarkable framework for understanding the nature of parenthood and marriage!
For example, did you know that Jesus speaks of His Father more than 170 times in the New Testament? In nearly every instance, He uses the term abba-an intimate and exclusive form of address that only a father’s own beloved child would use. The love, acceptance and self-giving between the Father and the Son is something of profound significance. We see it echoed in the parable of the prodigal son. On one level, this parable encapsulates the relationship between God the Heavenly Father and His children, the Church. But it also has a great deal to say to any earthly father who has experienced the pain associated with a wayward child. Although it was written down centuries ago, this parable is relevant and applicable to parents in the 21st Century.
Is the Bible simply a marriage or parenting manual, then? No, it is primarily the story of God’s glorious redemption of His people. Nevertheless, we see the language of the family imprinted across its pages.
And that is why, at the end of the day, the Gospel lies at the heart of Focus on the Family’s mission to help families thrive. We believe a thriving family is one in which both the parents and kids know Jesus personally. It reflects Christ’s love both inside and outside the home. Isn’t that what all of us want for our families? To be sure, we want to see all families strengthened and equipped, whether or not they espouse Christian doctrine. But when all is said and done, it’s not enough to develop great parenting skills or to build a stronger marriage. The issue of ultimate importance is whether you and the other members of your family will one day be reunited in Heaven, in the presence of the Creator of families. And that is why Focus on the Family exists.
Jim Daly’s personal journey from orphan to head of an international Christian organization dedicated to helping families thrive is a powerful story. Abandoned by his alcoholic father at age 5, Daly lost his mother to cancer four years later – a wound deepened when his grieving stepfather emptied the family home and took off with almost everything while Daly, the youngest of five children, and his siblings were at their mother’s funeral.
Several tough years in foster care followed, before Daly became a Christian in high school and found meaning, purpose and a sense of belonging.
“I am living proof,” he wrote in his 2007 autobiography, Finding Home, “that no matter how torn up the road has already been, or how pothole-infested it may look ahead, nothing – nothing – is impossible for God.”
Daly assumed the presidency of Focus on the Family in 2005 after 16 years with the ministry. He started his career in 1989 as an assistant to the president, where his primary duties were fostering relationships with supporters. When the International Department was created in 1992, Daly was appointed field director for Asia, Africa and Australia. In 1997, he was promoted to vice president of the International Division.
Daly earned additional responsibilities in 2003 when he was named group vice president, charged with directing the strategic path of the organization. In 2004, he was appointed chief operating officer, the role he held until he was hand-picked by Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson to be the ministry’s president.
Daly is a graduate of California State University, San Bernardino, earning a B.S. in Business Administration in 1984. During his senior year of study, he attended Waseda University in Tokyo. After graduating, Daly worked in the private sector for a FORTUNE 500 company.
In 1997, Daly completed his MBA in International Business at Regis University in Denver. In 2009, he received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Colorado Christian University in Denver.
Daly has received the 2008 World Children’s Center Humanitarian Award and the 2009 Children’s Hunger Fund Children’s Champion Award. He has appeared on such television programs as Glenn Beck, Hannity and Your World with Neil Cavuto, and is a regular panelist for The Washington Post/Newsweek blog “On Faith” alongside leading academics and theologians.
Daly’s second book, Stronger, was released in August 2010. It discusses in depth the ways God works through tragedy in the lives of His people.
Daly was born in 1961 and has been married to his wife, Jean, since 1986. They have two sons and reside in Colorado Springs, Colo.