Watching my own husband grow from an unsure first time dad to comfortable and confident to be in a house full of noisy children of varying forms of ‘ours’ has been one of my greatest joys.
Today we will hear the journey of another man who has grown his family through some ‘non traditional’ means.
Did you always see yourself as becoming an adoptive or foster dad? What were some of the circumstances that led you to this reality?
No I did not always see myself as a adoptive / foster Dad. However this is mostly as I did not consider such issues a lot before it was “forced” upon me by circumstance. If anything I just assumed my wife and I would get married and have kids the “normal” way. However this was not the case for my wife, she had had a childhood dream that one day she would adopt a girl. She did tell me this but to be honest I dismissed it.
After 5 or so years of being married and not being able to conceive we embarked on the process of adopting. I was not overly excited at first but soon came to see this as the plan for Our family. We did adopt (locally) our first girl when she was 8 months old. Our lives changed in a phone call. By this time I had come to know a loving God that had a plan for my life and I had committed to following this (little did I know what he had in store). As I said we were “infertile” but the week we brought our girl home we got pregnant and had our second girl. SO now we had two “babies” and the plan was revealing itself.
When our second girl was about 4 we sensed we wanted to grow our family again. By now we both felt very strongly we had been led and equipped to do this via fostering a child who needed a forever family. After another process we met our boy when he was 2 yrs old. If I had any doubt this was God’s plan, these have been dispelled, as not only did we gain a wonderful son but a family that we now love and work together in this fostering/ adoption space to support many families.
This year we began receiving crisis and respite foster placements in our family. We became aware of the critical state of this aspect of caring and felt called to Love these children within our family. So far we have had a few placements ranging from a week to 4 months plus. The experience has been hard but highly rewarding to see the effect of a safe, stable and loving family on scared hurt children. Respite care gives us an opportunity to “care for the carers” and give a child a familiar place to be when their full time foster family can’t (also to get many baby cuddles).
Generally speaking, it is often Husband’s that are slower to come around to the idea of foster care. Was this your experience?
I guess to begin with, as explained above, but now my wife and I mostly have a shared vision and attitude to what family is and how fostering fits into it. None of this means, I find it easy or comes naturally to me. I struggle nearly every day to parent children who have a history of loss and/or abuse. But I have grown to see that real Love and purpose requires sacrifice.
I’d encourage men to consider fostering in one form or another (respite is a great way to start). I believe men have a vital role in raising children and bring a different but equally important aspects to parenting. If the fear is “what will it do to my family” I’d encourage you to consider “how can this grow my family”. For example, I am continually floored by the Love shown by other children to children placed in their family. What I see is entire groups of children who have developed a heart for others (the heart of God I’d say). These are the future men and women, who will change the world as they have lived a life deliberately looking to Love those in need.
there anything you do that has helped you to build a bond with your kids; adopted, biological or foster?
I’m no expert but I find any activity that focuses on relationship rather than outcome makes the biggest difference. For example “Daddy dates” it’s a concept I got from The Fathering Project . Essentially take your children on a date. Ours have developed into “Dady days”. These have become memorable marker points in my children’s lives and give time for me to hear from them alone. A simple meal with just the two of you is a great start particularly if you have a big family. Our “rules “ are;
-Let the child choose the locations and activities (within reason and with help)
-ONE KID at a time
– Don’t press to hard for “ real “ deep conversation . This is about relationship building not pep talks etc.
– have fun and join in ALL activities .
– go hard and do plenty to fill the day.
– eat lots of ice cream ( mums not there). I think our record is 10.
– Have fun and keep it fun even if “issues” arise.
You are a father figure to so many more boys in your community through your work with The Boys Brigade. What drives you to step out like this?
Boys Brigade has become a amazing opportunity for me to connect with all sorts of boys and their families. Brigades aims to introduce and encourage relationship with a Loving God who has a plan for them too. We have lots of fun and strive to support boys and their families where we can. For me in particular I am drawn to connect to those boys in foster care who actively seek positive male influence and acceptance. But I find many boys are “fatherless” due to broken relationships etc and benefit from being around men who care for them.
Mums hear the message of ‘self care’ or filling up your own cup so that you can pour into others often, do you think Dads are able to do this too? What is it that you do to destress or refill so that you can give out?
Self care is vital as you identify, and of course men need it too. It’s really a question of balance. I can struggle to make the opportunity to do this thou. I like a busy life, but there are times when busy turns to crazy. It’s these times, when I need it most, that self care seems impossible. Lets says its a work in progress for me.
In the past I’ve been an avid cyclist and would spend considerable time undertaking “wheel therapy” on my own in the bush. More recently I’ve found it too hard to get out of the house and I have also taken up pottery. This too is “wheel therapy” and I find a creative outlet is extra helpful (although not as good for my health as riding).
I have learnt through bitter experience that I need to care for my mental health. Life can take it toll and I have needed counselling and such at times. I’d say be open an honest about this and seek help where you can if you feel overwhelmed.
I’d extend self care to friendships and community as I have found doing life together is always brighter and better than doing it alone. Be deliberate about building these relationships. Ark is one way I ensure I have people around me. We make a big effort to get to church (sometimes it’s a very BIG effort) , not to be religious, but it is a place where we can learn, connect, grow and demonstrate this to all the children who are with us that day.
What would be your advice to men who are unsure if they can love another man’s child like their own?
I’d say simply , You can. I have experienced this with all my children (adopted, birth and foster) .Sure they are all different and have different stories but I Love them. Is it “the same”. No, but its not meant to be. This is the wonderful thing about Love. Much of the differences, hardship, loss, complications, confusion etc frames and grows the unique Love I have for each of them.
I don’t think I can say anything more to this.
Can you love another man’s child, “simply. You can”.