Sporting sunglasses and a University of Connecticut sweatshirt, Bill Cosby returned to Hartford Monday with a group of local experts to speak with a legislative task force charged with identifying the root causes of fatherlessness.
“The reason I’m here is to get these fine servants of the public to feel and understand the pain that goes with the sadness when one is abandoned,” Cosby, the 71-year-old comedian and author of the book “Fatherhood,” said in a press conference before the legislative hearing.
And they got an earful.
During the task force’s hearing, Bulkeley High School math teacher Greg Bartlett, talked about being abandoned by his father at a young age. He said a few years back his father tried to come back into his life. Part of his father’s motivation was the need for a kidney.
A tearful Bartlett said, ” I told him I would not give him a kidney to save his life,” because of the pain his father caused him during his childhood. Shortly after the second time his father asked him for a kidney, Bartlett went to his father’s apartment to talk, but instead found him dead. Now, Bartlett said, he is living with having turned his back on his father, “because he turned his back on me.”
“There’s an old saying: hurt people, hurt people. We’re talking about emotion. Fathers who don’t think about it can’t realize the hurt.”
Dr. Lisa Namerow, a Hartford Hospital psychiatrist, said research shows that the major contributor to a child’s self-esteem is the father.
Another child psychiatrist, Dr. Kyle Pruett, said his field of study has come a long way. He said he was involved in a California study which showed that, when they are asked, young men say they do care about what happens to their children.
“We vastly underestimate the desire of these boys – men – to be involved with their children,” Pruett said.
He said young men aren’t often asked about their feelings. When they are asked, however, they tend to show up for counseling because of those feelings, Pruett said.
He said the problem is that there are few if any services available for these fathers. When services are available, the rates of abuse and neglect are reduced to almost zero, he said.
“We need adult males in our community to be responsible dads,” Cosby said.
According to state Rep. Bruce Morris, D-Norwalk, co-chairman of the Fatherhood Task Force, almost 50 percent of children in Connecticut “go to bed in fatherless homes.” He said the government has built barriers to fatherhood in some instances, and the task force is looking at ways to remove those obstacles.
The task force is expected to offer recommendations to the legislature in January.