My Dad, My Daddy, My Heroes

When I began my quest to interview Foster/Adoptive Carers across the nation I never knew that I would find that one that would be so outstanding for me to interview. I was certainly honored that I personally knew “Daddy” though I have not yet had the privilege of meeting “Dad” as they are the real heroes to three wonderful boys that will be brought up to be very respectable men because of their “Dad’ and “Daddy”.

At the beginning of the interview I learned that “Dad and Daddy,” were no longer foster Carers as they are now parents to the three boys, “C”, “D”, and “J”; ages 8, 11, and 13 respectively. They made the transition from Carer to Parent via Adoption. Which is how it honestly should be so that the trauma that youth experience coming into the foster care system in the United States begins to get reversed and that unfortunate trauma turns into love, family, stability, and a sense of belonging. They are parents to three boys the excitement that comes from just knowing that is so overwhelming that it needs to be celebrated therefore they are the couple that was chosen for me to write the second part of a three-part series.

I know that the readers will understand that I am being respective of their identities as I allowed them to state how they should be identified. I am also not at liberty to disclose the state in which they reside as that was also a stipulation that I placed with all the families interviewed.

Shortly after starting the interview, I learned that there were four boys, two of which were siblings and the other two boys where unrelated, at some point in the transition from Carer to Parent. The fourth young man “S”, 17 years old, does not reside with “Dad and Daddy” being that he was reunified with his biological mother though he is still a very active member of their family and viewed just as the other three, “He is just one of our boys.”

No matter your view of how a family should be, I state this with the conviction of someone who just spent thousands of hours driving and meeting families of all background and setting. A family are those that show you unconditional love, allow you to learn some lessons even if a bit difficult and you fall flat on your bum. A family isn’t based whom it’s comprised but rather who makes up the composition. A testimony of my own experience is I have lived with a Hispanic family where my parents didn’t speak much English but my older brother translated what I could contextually grasp and my younger brother was the first to sign my cast when I broke my arm. I have lived with a Caucasian family where in all honesty they were more interested in keeping no fewer than three Therapeutic Foster Youth at a time so the interest there seemed to be more financially motivated. My final foster home, I was in a regular no classification ‘traditional’ foster home with my “Big Momma”, she not only cut my hair for many years as she did for many foster youth staying at the shelter and made the best ‘greens’ I have ever had in my life. Therefore, I reiterate it’s not family just because of a shared name and D.N.A., but all of the people in it that turn a simple sheet with musical notes into a wonderfully played composition, work of art.

Now that out, there were some very big items that were discussed during the interview. I asked “Daddy” what are some of the systemic factor failures you have encountered in being a Carer for youth from the foster care system?

“Daddy” responded by stating, “the system seems to come in with an approach of ‘this is how you take care of a child in our rule book’, this is what we’ve defined but, that rule book is faulted.” He followed it up with an example of a house rule dealing with sweets or junk food. In their home, those types of treats are given as a reward for positive behavior or completing tasks – a reward system. Unfortunately, the governing agency worker interpreted the withholding of sweets or junk food as being inappropriate because the agency worker stated it was using food as a means of consequence or punishment; cake, ice cream, soda, candies, junk food are not essential to having a proper healthy diet. Therefore, I was even perplexed at how the agency worker responded. Even when it comes to a broad term of food, one must consider is it essential or one that would be viewed as a treat or celebration. I understand the policy of not using nutritious food and meals as a consequence or form of punishment to a youth that is in your home due to being removed from their home for what various reasons and circumstances can only be imagined. So, in a simple example “Daddy” conveyed on how interpretation is so broad and subjective from worker to worker even agency to contracted agency.

“Daddy”, followed up with “so, this is just one example of where like you have written rules and (have) say this is what you can or can’t do but it’s like I see these kids that go into... the orphanage and all they do is shove sugar down the all day long and as a reward and it’s like that doesn’t work so all these kids are hyped up on sugar all day long and all they know in life is I have, in order for me to do anything I have to be rewarded with sugar. And to me, that’s just like as bad as if you were to be consequencing with real food or anything because then you’re just training someone that ‘I constantly have to be fed sugar in order to do anything in life, it’s like that’s not real, that’s not…” I must agree with him, as the orphanage as he called it, many of us call them shelters while awaiting placement and the running of such facilities does need to be more structured in displaying to our youth what real families do even on such a simple aspect of a daily proper diet. Also, learning the difference of what is essential for our health and what is an indulgent treat to enjoy as a reward or special occasions.

We then moved on to a conversation over the overt use of psychotropic medications and I did ask if “The Heroes”, have come across that situation. In fact, they have, it was most pronounced with their youngest son, “C”, who was so overly medicated. “Daddy” stated, “Our youngest he was way, way, way overdosed with medications when we first got him to the point where um, I would take him to his therapist in the morning, he had morning appointments and he would be falling asleep just sitting there talking to his therapist because he was so, just overwhelmed with all these drugs that were meant to um, I guess, they’re anti-psychotics um, but, with those anti-psychotics they bring his blood pressure way low it’s like he’s super tired when he takes something, just like way overdosed, and now I mean we’ve got him down to where he’s on no anti-psychotics just on ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) medication and he’s totally doing fine. And so, it’s like, I feel like when we got the kids a lot of their behaviors were simply managed by just throwing drugs at them, not necessarily working with them and figuring out how to control the behaviors themselves, you know.”

“Daddy” reveled to me that the three-main diagnosis they have come across and dealt with amongst their boys were ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), and RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder). From many of my other interviews these three seemed to come up commonly in discussion to where it still poses a question in my mind of, are those professionals that preform the examinations medicating with pills instead of allowing a Carer to care for a vulnerable

child with our hearts first and showing that compassion, persistence, and stability tend to be the best method of treatment? Is this part of the vicious practice to categorize our nation’s foster youth what is a catalyst for additional Title IV-B and Title IV-E funding to where we lack the appropriate homes that our nation’s foster youth need to be in versus congregate care facilities or institutions where they receive little to no one-on-one time to feel the compassion and love that can be achieved in even ‘traditional’ foster homes without the need to constantly evaluate to upgrade a child’s home placement (which does cost more money).

I did ask “Daddy” when in public how does he introduce his boys prior to and post-adoption. “Daddy” responded by, “This is my son.” He further goes to mention that the common comment that follows is you’re so young and his response to this is even touching, “well they’re actually adopted so I can’t take full credit but they are my kids.” For an interviewer, such as myself, that is profound because he assures his sons before the adoption that they were his sons no other label. The other part from post adoption is touching because it shows that it’s not the D.N.A. make up being as they share none but they are his kids, therefore they are his family and he is their Daddy and they are special to have a Dad with Daddy too.

I call “Dad and Daddy”, Heroes in this article because of what they did for “J”. “J” came to them from an institution where it eventually was felt by his therapist that had already given up on him and it was “Dad and Daddy” take him into their loving home or he be placed in another institution in a different state permanently. They refused to let “J” be deprived of a loving family though “Daddy” did admit to me that it was a tough transition but they reinforced time and time again that “J” was their son and they were not going to give up on him. They are HEROES. Their boy’s just see and know “Dad and Daddy” not oh, I’m adopted. It takes extraordinary abilities to do that for a child and they are a testimony that by showing a child a loving family and showing that you are not going to give up on them like everyone else has, wonderful outcomes are very possible.

Some of our dialogue did involve their oldest son wanting to go to his mate’s house to hang out and the inadequate following of the “Normalcy Laws”, from what I can gather due to again interpretation which varied from agency worker to agency worker. We do not need to as parents do background checks on all our kids’ friend’s because one it is not normal and we are supposed to be setting a family atmosphere where the youth is to be treated as normal as possible. “Dad and Daddy” did get questioned on why they took their sons on trips out of state to visit family, to places such as Disney, holidays together without excluding their sons. They did more that was following the “Normalcy Laws” (before it was law perhaps) by treating their sons exactly like their sons, not like a person who is temporarily in their care. I wish I could clone more couples or even single Carers like them because they are making a positive impact that is what is meant of the system.

“Daddy” did mention that he wishes that there was more of a working relationship and support from the county agency than what they have in place now. When “Dad and Daddy”, were doing therapeutic foster care they felt they had more support and collaboration with the secondary agency but after transitioning to dealing with the county agency directly they lost most if not all that support and collaboration.

“Daddy”, through our dialogue, did state that many times he felt their experience in dealing with ‘the agency’, they ran into a decent number of situations where he felt like their treatment was very much different than a straight couple. He felt it wasn’t so much of placing a youth there but after their sons were placed with them the amount of follow up and amount of home visits and microscope scrutiny was

more present to make sure they were going to do everything to be ‘agency compliant’. When we spoke on this issue, I noticed the frustration coming out in “Daddy” because he and his partner only want to show love and have children. They could have done anything from having a surrogacy to ‘test tube babies’ to private adoptions but they chose to be Carers first then out of that they adopted their sons.

I postured the question, “So you could see the change within the youth just knowing that I’m adopted, this is my dad, my daddy. So, I guess you can say, you could see the weight of the burden lifted, would it be accurate that you could see that?” “Oh yeah! I mean there probably was a good, with all our boys, a good 2 to 3 weeks leading up to the actual court date to do the adoption, their behaviors went through the roof like that was a claim to us, our therapist said, “They’re testing you, do you really want me?” Because these are the behaviors I have you know, kind of showing all their cards, this is what I can do. And, then immediately after the adoption, that just went away and it turned 180o from where they were headed.” “Dad and Daddy”, you are true heroes not only to me but also give hope to the over 420,000 foster youth in care now that family is still possible, you just never know where it is going to come from.

One comment that “Daddy” made was that he would feel it would be beneficial to change the face or image of what a successful foster child is. Here, where we live, we see on commercials that these youths are available for adoption but it’s more of a list of here are our damaged goods. Versus, these were foster kids that have been adopted and this is what they’ve accomplished now and in the future. To he and I, we think that is much more inspiring and would help recruit and retain homes for our nation’s foster youth.

This article is meant to show that even a same-sex couple can become loving parents to our nation’s foster youth population. You can be heterosexual, homosexual, a single parent; live in a house, flat, condo. Our children need love and nurture and I leave you with this statement.

To nurture and love a youth that has experienced a traumatic experience within their lives and need someone there to love and nurture them back to health that is what parent(s) and a family does; we need more parent(s) and families to end this cycle.