'We should prize fatherhood'
FATHERHOOD should become a new sport or career every dad should aspire to.
Those are the words of Queensland Father of the Year finalist Andrew Clarke who worries about the number a children growing up fatherless in today's society.
The Toowoomba dad, speaking at the Scripture Union event in Brisbane on Wednesday, fosters two young girls with his wife Simone.
Both are high-needs children and one suffers a serious medical condition.
Mr Clarke said being a good father was about "being there, dedication, commitment, a listening ear and a lot of fun".
He said children growing up without fathers was recognised as one of the biggest problems in today's society, noting 85% of people in prison grew up in fatherless households.
"We really should prize fatherhood and want to excel at it more than anything else," he said.
"I think fostering, providing a fathering role for these children, is so vital.
"I think the most important thing for any child is that they have a secure attachment.
"The goal of foster care is to return children to their family of origin so they can have a secure attachment there but if it's possible, they need to be put into a safe placement permanently as quickly as possible so they can form that attachment.
"It's an absolute delight to me that (these girls) have chosen to call me their dad."
The Scripture Union has labelled Mr Clarke as "one of the unsung heroes" and the type of dad many take for granted or do not appreciate enough.
"Many children across the nation that need foster care would not make it without fathers like Andrew, who are willing to take sacrificial fatherhood to a deeper level, for children in great need," SU wrote in its finalist summary.
Mr Clarke and his wife were finalists in this year's Foster Excellence Awards for their "dedication and commitment to Queensland's most vulnerable children and young people".
Single father of eight Mark Cummins, who also runs a landscaping business with help from his tribe, won Father of the Year.
He has two children with cystic fibrosis among his children, who are aged 15 to 32.