"There's no pay. There are no benefits. You don't get time off. You don't get a break," he said. "But once in a while you get to see your child shine and you say to yourself, 'That's my boy. That's my girl.'"
It is also a job that Gardner and others believe is increasingly in trouble in the United States, even as the country gives its annual Fathers Day salute on June 17.
More than 19 million children -- about one in four -- were living in households where no father, biological or other, was present, according to a Census Bureau report in 2005.
The statistics also show that this burden falls more heavily on black children. Some 56 percent of black children lived in single-parent families in 2004, with most of those families headed by mothers. That figure compared with 22 percent of white children and 31 percent of Hispanic children.
"Father absence in the African American communities, across America, has hit those communities with the force of 100 hurricane Katrinas," said Phillip Jackson, executive director of the Chicago-based Black Star Project, which helps children in mainly minority schools.
"It is literally decimating our communities and we have no adequate response to it."
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