‘Are you willing to foster a teen?’ I was 19, single, male. I set up the interview, thinking I wouldn’t be taken seriously.’: Man who grew up in foster care adopts 3 children, ‘I want them to grow up loved’

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“Love is what matters? You’re absolutely right. But what is love? It’s an action word, it requires more than just saying it. It’s a hug, nursing the sick, crying tears of joy and it’s adoption. Adoption is love. Fostering is love.

I grew in the inner city of Richmond, Virginia, raised by my grandmother Cora at the age of four. How did I end up with my grandmother? Long story, but the short version is my parents made some very selfish and poor decisions that affected my life.

Courtesy of Barry Farmer

I spent the first four years of my life bouncing from home to home between my parents, friends, and family before finally settling in with my Grandmother Cora.

Courtesy of Barry Farmer
Courtesy of Barry Farmer

Living with her granted me the opportunity to be among dozens of adults who cared about me. I spent the majority of my childhood waiting for my biological parents to care about me, to come see me, to acknowledge my existence as someone they created. It got to the point where I was so blinded by the need to be seen by my parents that I completely ignored the fact that I had this entire other community who had my back. It wasn’t until I was 16 or 17 years old when I realized this.

Courtesy of Barry Farmer

As a teen, I kept a few journals. I remember writing one entry that said, ‘One day, I would like to adopt.’ Why would I write that at 17? Probably due to myself always being a person that looked out for those younger than me. Making sure my younger sister and I ate something when my mother would leave us home alone at the ages of 2 and 4. I’ve always been a good big brother, at least in my opinion. I guess I thought there was no doubt I’d be a great father as well. Hence, the writing in my journal.

In 2006, I moved out of my grandmother’s home and into my own place. I worked like a dog everyday. Sometimes fifty hours a week. After almost a year of being on my own, I began to feel unfulfilled. I was not sure what I was missing at the time. I definitely knew I wanted a new job. So, I picked up an employment guide newsletter to see my career options. As I flipped through the pages, there it was, an advertisement saying, ‘Become a Foster Parent Today. Must be 18 or older.’ I said to myself, ‘Well, I’m 19 (almost 20) so I meet the minimum requirements. I’ll give them a call and see if they will take me seriously.’

Soon after, I set up the interview, went in to have a conversation and surprisingly was approved to go through training. The director of the agency believed in my ability to be a foster parent but was very honest telling me she doesn’t think that any social worker will be jumping at the opportunity to place a child in a home with a 20-year-old single male. I agreed with her and said I’d remain patient.

When filling out my paperwork there was a strange category asking what race I would be comfortable with in my home. I would hate to think I was closed minded and ignorant enough to not take in a child based on their race, so I checked all the boxes, thinking to myself, ‘What are the odds of me getting any child in my home besides a black child anyway?’

One day, I get call asking if I would go meet with a potential placement that resides at a group. Of course, I said ‘sure.’ This is would be my first placement and the child would be a teen, yikes. I did end up letting him come home with me for about six very intense months. Then, he had to be removed because of some difficulties he was experiencing at the time.

A month later, I get another call asking to take in a 7-year-old boy. They didn’t have any information other than his name and that it was an emergency placement. I was to meet him and his current foster family at a super market to chat. I was convinced it was a black child. I didn’t have a reason to think any different. Imagine my surprise to see a white child sitting at the table!

Courtesy of Barry Farmer

I was internally panicking and had no clue how to take care of a white child. In fact, at the time, he was the first white child I’d ever interacted with. In the end, I agreed to take him in. From there, an amazing bond grew! His plans quickly changed from foster to adoption. And even though I wasn’t the first picked to be his forever home, I am still able to be his father. Because, in the end, that’s all he really wanted, and needed.

Courtesy of Barry Farmer
Courtesy of Barry Farmer

A few months passed and I began to foster again, only with the intention to proceed with full adoption this go around. I made a profile on adoptuskids.org and began to search in my state and beyond for my next son. I made over 100 inquires for available all races. Finally, after what felt like forever, I got selected for a child that was in foster care in Pennsylvania. I was excited and nervous. I’m like, ‘Barry, are you really ready for two kids in your home full-time?’ Despite any anxieties, I moved forward with the placement, and then there were two!

Courtesy of Barry Farmer

Soon after my second son arrived, I got a call to do respite care four a tiny 4-year-old boy. However, the respites became more frequent and during that time the little guy was put up for adoption. Since I was already keeping him on the regular, the workers asked, ‘Would you consider adopting him as well?’ My other two sons and I agreed to take him in and the rest is history!

Courtesy of Barry Farmer

Being a father has been very fulfilling over the past ten years. One thing I was unprepared for was the boys growing up so fast! I have two teens now that are close to finishing high school. My baby boy will be a teen before I know it. What to do, what to do! But through it all, I’ve loved raising my boys. No, it has not been easy, not everyday was sunny skies and rainbows. There’s been a lot of tears and a lot of healing!

Courtesy of Barry Farmer

Our family going viral opened my eyes to how others really think and how strong ignorance can really be. I can’t focus on those who don’t support our family, we can’t join in on their misery.

A lot of people ask me, ‘Will you ever adopt again?’ As of right now, I say no. But the future can be unpredictable. For right now, I pride myself on my advocacy in bringing awareness to children in foster care awaiting adoption and helping numerous organizations in my area when needed.

Courtesy of Barry Farmer

I’m not sure what the future holds for my sons, but my only hope is they will grow up to be great men, loved men, and successful men.”

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Courtesy of Barry Farmer
Courtesy of Barry Farmer

This story was submittted to Love What Matters by Barry Farmer. You can follow his journey on Instagram and his website. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more touching stories like this:

‘I’ve never had real parents before. I’ve waited my entire life to be treated the way y’all treat me.’ Couple adopts 18-year-old who was ‘abandoned by his birth mother with no name’

‘My father sent me out for cigarettes. With no shoes and one shirt, I decided to run away. I needed to find a place he’d never find me.’ Man rescued from abusive family, returns favor by fostering children in need

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