I’ve had the honor to meet some amazing dads in my work at Arizona Helping Hands.
Foster dads don’t have nine months to wrap their heads around the responsibilities of parenting. They are called on often at a moment’s notice because children desperately need that one caring adult who will be present in their lives.
A foster parent tries to mend the many broken pieces of children who have been abused and neglected. They take on all of the risks that come with a child whose life has been damaged by others. It takes a true hero, filled with love and commitment, to willingly accept this role, and fortunately, for so many boys and girls, heroes do exist.
John and his wife changed their lives to take in their two grandchildren after drug addiction consumed their daughter. Eric and his wife have fostered 40 children, adopting 12; Curtis has adopted nine --- four from foster care, along with his five grandchildren. The hero list goes on --- thankfully.
I met Mike earlier this year, to assist his family with licensing safety items and with support for his expanding household. Mike shared his story with me. He told me that he and his wife had a blended family --- three of his wife’s children, along with two of his biological kids. As parents of kids aged 16 to 22, they did their part, working together to raise a family.
Mike was ready for a taste of freedom as the kids found their space and grew into young adults, but his wife had other ideas. She wanted to foster.
They started classes to become foster parents, seeking to foster a baby, as they had no children together. Then the call came in --- the three children of a cousin were in foster care, in different foster homes. After some discussion, Mike agreed, and they began the process to reunite the children under their roof. On Feb. 1, the 10-year-old, 16 and 6-month-old children were all brought home. Mike says that his heart and his life were changed forever.
The daily challenges of raising a youngster, a toddler and an infant are huge, but it is all worth it, watching their peaceful sleeping faces, knowing they are safe and loved. That’s what a dad does for his kids.
Arizona Helping Hands helps men like Mike on the foster journey. We assist with the safety items needed to become a licensed foster home, with beds and cribs for the children to sleep on, along with clothing, diapers, back to school items and even birthday packages to celebrate their special day.
After disruption, abuse and neglect, these kids truly need our helping hands, and there is no greater honor than to assist the heroes who choose to set their needs aside to care for children in need. I love helping dads like Mike and foster parents from all over Arizona who come to us for assistance when they answer the call from a child in need.
Mike says that “being a dad is being the man that the kids look up to and learn from by example. Letting them know that no matter what happens, they will always be loved. This applies to all the kids --- bio, step and foster --- I won’t put that label on them, they are all my children.”
Those boys and girls are incredibly blessed to have Mike, who is truly a dad, in their lives. I wish Mike and all dads --- biological, foster, adoptive, step --- a beautiful Father’s Day, I hope you are surrounded by the smiles and laughter of your children. Thank you for being their hero.
Editor's note: Dan Shufelt is president and CEO of Arizona Helping Hands, which provides basic needs to Arizona’s children in foster care. Learn more about the organization and donate at azhelpinghands.org.