At least one-fourth of children across the country live without their fathers.
Many of those children are boys left without a man to look up to.
Here in Peoria, young men face similar challenges.
WMBD’s Eugene Daniel tells us why many local boys are at risk and how fighting fatherlessness can change the city.
“We will get all the spelling words finished. I got that one signed,” said Nate Terry.
Nate Terry lives a modest life with his two sons in Peoria.
As a single father, Terry’s boys share something he never had.
“It was just me and my sister and my mom. And I didn't have a father there. You know, I didn't know my dad.”
But with his mom hooked on drugs, a young terry sought guidance in the streets of Chicago.
“And the street kind of became my father. My father figure. And so what I saw in the streets, I became.”
So he joined a popular gang under the name “G-Man.”
“That's who I portrayed to be – I became 'G-man'. Even though that wasn't my identity, but that's who I became, and I was G-Man well.”
His action landed him behind bars for a decade.
“And you know me being a young man, I wanted to be a part of what I saw. You know because I didn't have a father there to tell – this is wrong, that is wrong. Whoop me or beat me and tell me you're going to do this and you're going to do that.”
In the City of Peoria, the 2010 US Census says dads are absent from 40 percent of homes with children under the age of 18.
And that number does not include kids who live with neither parent or those who are homeless.
Child psychologist Dr. Eric Ward says the presence of a father figure critical for a boy’s maturation.
“Boys and dads share and learn certain things together that are more difficult for a mom to provide for her son. It's not that she can't, but it is more difficult,” said Eric Ward.
Ward also says fatherless boys are at a higher risk of social, academic, and behavior problem.
“I'd say 75 percent to 85 percent of the men that are incarcerated grew up without a father. That's what they tell me all the time,” said Terry.
So he’s doing something about it.
“I'm glad I'm in jail this morning. God is go good! Some of you gotta come back but you gotta come back different.”
On weekends, Terry works with a prison ministry and shares his story with prisoners across the state.
“What he's done for me, he'll do it for you too! I ain't no better than you.”
“I love doing it because I see that that's what's needed. It's needful for men to experience that type of love from one man to another. You know brotherly or fatherly type of love.”
Terry says his life changed when a preacher hugged him and said “he loved him” in prison.
Now Terry does the same for these men.
“That's when kids were little that was in 1994. I had just come home from prison.”
Back home, the boys idolize their dad.
“If you met him now, you wouldn't believe that that was your dad that did all of those things. Cause, all you do is see the man he is now,” said Nazareth Terry.
“But I can say not having a father did affect me in how to be a father. But it did make me want to be a better father.”
And he hopes to set an example for when his boys become fathers of their own.
Terry also works with Peoria’s “Don’t Shoot” program and encourages gang members to turn their lives around.