“Love is what matters? You’re absolutely right. 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, VA. I was raised by my grandmother, Cora, at the age of four after moving from home to home in Kinship Care AKA foster care. 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. I spent the first for four years of my life bouncing from home to home, between my parents’ friends and family, before finally settling in with my Grandmother Cora who I didn’t know at all.
Living in Kinship Care/foster care 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 I completely ignored the fact I had an entire community who had my back. I realized that later as a teen. I had to be about 16 or 17 at the time.
As a teen, I kept a few journals. I remember writing an entry that said, ‘One day, I would like to adopt.’ Why would I write that at 17? Probably due to always being a person who 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, well, at least in my opinion. No doubt I’d be a great father. Maybe that’s why I wrote that entry in my journal but I had no clue about foster care and adoption.
In 2006, I moved out of my grandmother’s home into my own place. I worked like a dog every day. Sometimes fifty hours a week. After almost a year of being on my own, I began to feel unfulfilled. I wasn’t 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 options for a career. What I really wanted to do was become a truck driver but 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. I meet the minimum requirements. I’ll give them a call and see if they will take me seriously.’ 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 didn’t think any social worker would 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’ll remain patient.’
When filling out my paperwork, there was a strange category asking what race would I 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. I also was thinking, ‘What are the odds of me getting any child in my home besides a black child anyway?’
One day, I got a call asking if I would go meet with a potential placement who resided at a group home. I said, ‘Sure. This is my first placement and the child will 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 got another call asking to take in a 7-year-old boy. They didn’t have any information other than his name and it was an emergency placement. I was to meet him and his current foster family at a supermarket to chat. I was convinced it was a black child. I didn’t have a reason to think any differently. Imagine my surprise to see a white child sitting at the table! I was internally panicking on the inside because I had no clue how to take care of a white child. At the time, he was the first white child I had ever interacted with. In the end, I agreed to take him in. From there, a bond grew. His plans changed to adoption and even though I wasn’t the first pick to be his forever home, I was still able to be his father because in the end, that’s what he wanted.
A few years passed and I began to foster again. I decided to only adopt from foster care this go around. I made a profile on adoptuskids.org and began to search in my state and outside for my next son. I made over 100 inquires for available all races. Finally, I got selected for a child who 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?’ We moved forward with the placement and then there were two. They were two white children.
Soon after my second son arrived, I get a call to respite care for a tiny 4-year-old boy. 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 if I would consider adopting him as well. My other two sons and I agreed to take him in and the rest is history.
Being a father has been very fulfilling over the past 11 years. One thing I was unprepared for was the boys growing up so fast! I have two teens now with one who’s just graduated high school. My baby boy will be a teen before you know it. What to do, what to do! I have enjoyed raising my boys. No, it has not been easy, not every day was sunny skies and rainbows. There’s been a lot of tears and a lot of healing!
Our family going viral opened my eyes to how others really think and how strong ignorance can really be. Why would I, as a former foster youth, limit myself as a caregiver to children of color? Why do my sons being white automatically create that notion to people? It’s ridiculous. I can’t focus on those who don’t support our family, we can’t join in on their misery.
If you’re considering becoming a foster or adoptive parent, here are a few things to remember:
Once you sign up to commit to this ‘lifestyle,’ your life is no longer about just you. You are now responsible for another human’s emotional well being.
Remember you are dealing with children who have been possibly been abandoned, abused, or neglected, which all equals trauma.
There’s nothing to celebrate when it comes to receiving a foster care placement. A child is entering your home emotionally broken and that’s nothing to be happy about.
Respect the child’s privacy. It’s okay to help spread awareness but the public doesn’t need every juicy detail about what your foster or adoptive child’s past. Let’s try to remember that before you began blogging, vlogging, or speaking to others.
Love alone will not be enough for the children in your care. You can’t hug, kiss, or pray away the trauma they have experienced. Your children need boundaries, consistency, therapy, and compassion.
Most importantly, if you are fostering or adopting outside of your race, you need to be culturally aware and sensitive to your child’s needs. If you know you can not provide those cultural needs and racial mirrors or at least move to provide those things, my advice is to not take in minorities. To be honest, it’s really not difficult to keep the children in touch with their culture. It just requires a little effort.
A lot of people ask me will I 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, helping numerous organizations in my area when needed. I’m not sure what the future holds for my sons. My hope is they will grow up to be great men, loved men, and successful men.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Barry Farmer from The Barry Farmer Morning Show. You can follow their journey on Instagram and Facebook. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more stories about foster care and adoption here:
‘At 11, his adoptive parents abandoned him at a hospital, never to return. ‘Mr. Peter, can I call you my Dad?’ I began to cry uncontrollably.’: Single dad adopts 11-year-old boy from foster care after biological, adoptive family abandon him
‘Oh, are you babysitting?’ ‘They’re mine.’ I’m a 30-year-old single black woman with 3 white kids. Love has no color in my home.’: Woman adopts 1 boy, 2 siblings from foster care, ‘love is love, no matter the color’
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