Early in my life I didn’t have a father that I can really remember. I had older brothers who were, and still are, my role models of “dad.” They looked out for me, showed me what healthy relationships looked like, and took me to church when mom was working. Then along came my step dad, who reinforced the values that my brothers instilled in me, and gave me the paternal love that a young boy of 11 craves. Growing up he was everything I wanted to be – strong, smart, loving and gentile. I have always wanted to emulate him in my parenting. I cannot imagine my life without the love and support of my dad.
No dad is perfect. Mine didn’t play sports, take me to games, or play in the park. Our time was spent working on the farm, taking long walks in the woods, or hunting and fishing. My goal as a child was to please my dad. I remember the first time he told me how proud he was of me. I would never trade the years I had with my dad for anything in this world.
Needless to say, not all dads are present and if they are sometimes the children wish they weren’t. Many of the girls in group home foster care shy away when you talk about dads. To many of these girls, a “dad” is a dream, the elusive ghost, the man who gave them life but nothing else. I remember those thoughts but unlike these girls my dream of a dad came true. Children in foster care almost never get a forever family or forever dad, especially if they are over the age of 8.
Here is some information from the North American Council on Adoptable Children:
Every youth in foster care needs and deserves a permanent family. Despite the nation’s stated goal to achieve permanency for children, in 2007 more than 28,000 youth aged out of foster care, meaning they left the child welfare system without a permanent family.
About 43 percent of waiting children are nine or older, but 72 percent of those who are adopted are under age nine. The average age of children when they are adopted from foster care is 6.6 years, while the average age of waiting children is 8.2 years. The average waiting child has been in foster care for more than three years.
(North American Council on Adoptable Children)
We can recite the stories we’ve been told about the bad dad. Would it surprise you that most of these kiddos dads just disappear? Not wanting anything to do with the children? Some are abusive physically and mentally. Many more are incarcerated leaving the families to fend for themselves. Can you imagine not knowing your children, not attending a graduation or recital? Worse yet, being a teenager and knowing that you have no one, you are expendable, and no one seems to care? I can give you all kinds of statistics on not only the bad things that happen to the foster youth but there is staggeringly few statistics on the ones that actually make it to having a productive life. We have to help teach the children what a healthy relationship is and break the cycle of neglect.
These children need more than what we can give them. They need a forever home, they need the love of a parent, the support of a father. Don’t be afraid to reach out and help. We have to be there in any way we can, showing them love, supporting, guiding and teaching them. As a man I see the need of a father’s influence with every visit we make. The children flock around wanting to talk, to tell of their day or week, to banter and tease, for someone to listen and give advice. I love spending time with these kids, talking, playing, caring for them, and listening. Taking them home, rescuing them is not a real option or solution, educating them and teaching them that they are loved is the only viable solution. We must be there not as a parent but as a role model, support system and educator.
Everyone needs and deserves a father, a role model. I thank God every day for the dads that I had.
Happy Father’s Day!
We are here for the long haul and we will not go away.
That is what the For the Love of Kids Ministry is about; helping with love in any way we can.