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Absentee dads key to reducing youth violence



Indianapolis, Indiana – Every time I visit a conference on reducing youth violence, meet with teen activists, or speak with at-risk youth, I hear the lament, “Where are the fathers?”

This Father’s Day, when fathers are honored around central Indiana and encircled by their families, far too many homes are run by women, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and aunts who are doing their best to raise their children in the absence of a strong, supportive male role model.

”There are great mothers who are doing the best they can do, but there also needs to be a male influence to teach these young men how to move through life as a young man,” said Aaron Green, founder of “Struggle Made Us,” which is an organization that helps juveniles who lack strong mentors in their lives. ”I can see them wanting to have a male they can depend on, they can talk to, somebody who’s not gonna judge ‘em, somebody who’s not gonna tell them, ‘You too young to be going through that.’ Somebody who’s gonna kind of help guide them through the journey. The most important piece is somebody who will listen to them.”

As a teenager, Green lost his own father due to gun violence.

”My dad went to prison when I was five, he got out when I was 16, he got murdered by a 17-year-old when I was 17,” Green said. ”The 17-year-old who killed my dad, now I’m mentoring 17-year-olds who potentially be in those situations. Maybe I’m the voice of reason. Maybe I save two people in that, you know what I mean.”

Talking about the value of fathers in the lives of vulnerable Indianapolis children, Green took time away from his own five children and from taking calls from some of the dozens of other people who regard him as a father.

”I deal with a lot of kids who have a lot of trauma that hasn’t been addressed, or they don’t know how to communicate what they’re going through,” Green said. “And I also teach them what trauma looks like and what it can do to you.

“When I meet a kid, I see a barrier. They always present a barrier, and that comes from maybe a man being in their lives walking out, and so they expect when they meet you that you’re gonna do the same thing, so if you can show some type of consistency, it’s an immediate engagement.”

From early 2023 to early 2024, the office of Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears filed almost 400 cases involving the dangerous possession of firearms against minors. The prosecutor went on to say that in the past two years, his office has filed the most charges related to gun ownership, and this pattern doesn’t appear to be changing.

According to Green, a lot of kids don’t think they’ll live to be a young adult and come out of prison.

”It’s extremely important to see somebody that looks like you that has made it because how else are you supposed to dream? If everybody around me has died, that’s how I’m gonna feel like it’s gonna happen to me,” Green said. ”Oftentimes, you become what you don’t want to be. When you see a parent who is someone that has that negative impact and that’s all you’re seeing, that’s what you’re gonna try to run away from, but honestly that trauma runs you right into being that person.”

Following a year in which the IMPD revealed that twenty-two children had perished from gunshot wounds, and over sixty others had survived their gunshot wounds, the City’s Office of Public Health and Safety declared the appointment of a Chief Violence Prevention Officer with the primary goal of addressing youth violence and assisting young people’s families.

Dr. Virginia Caine, the director of Marion County Public Health, also declared that she would be dedicating $2 million from her department’s 2025 budget to combat child-impacted violence.
Green sent out one last Father’s Day greeting to Indianapolis’s absentee parents:

”If you are a father who hasn’t really engaged with his kids, they need you, and I hope that you hear this message and feel it.”