With over 437,000 children and youth in foster care, it’s our honor to take a look at some of the awesome dads in our community who are opening their hearts and their homes, and providing these kids with a bright future.
Thinking about becoming a foster parent? Check out the GWK Academy.
Dads John and Ryan, San Antonio, Texas
“We both always wanted kids, but had actually said we would never foster; we weren’t sure we could handle the uncertainty of having a child in our home and not knowing if he or she would stay with us … That being said, we had been looking to adopt, and as we got familiar with options available, we fell into our roles as foster parents. We were so lucky we did!”
John and Ryan Hollan are dads of two boys, Cody, 11, and Connor, 2. Both came to them as infants – 3 months and 2 months, respectively – and as foster placements. They adopted Cody in 2013, and Connor’s adoption was finalized in 2019.
“Being a foster parent can be so very rewarding and so very challenging all at the same time,” shared John. “There is the uncertainty with any placement with regard to the permanence – and we were hoping to adopt – as well as the on-going visits to our home, the various therapy services the children may be participating in, parental visits, etc that can at time be exhausting and overwhelming. We just had to keep in mind that we were going to do the very best we could for our kids while we had them.”
But the rewards have been out of this world. “I would say Cody and Connor are the rewards, and yet that doesn’t begin to capture how much joy they bring to our lives. We get to love them, teach them, help them, and watch them learn our world. We get to offer them a life that they may not have had otherwise by having a stable loving home.”
Despite the kids age difference, the family says it’s surprisingly easy to find things they all love to do together, from swimming to family walks. “Living in San Antonio, we’ve also been able to take advantage of some of the theme parks here with year-round warm weather. Cody is a big soccer fan, and Connor loves to go to his games.”
Advice to future foster dads: “Find out when you can attend an orientation and go; they are usually short and there is no commitment. Get some information, ask questions, and get the phone number of someone you can follow up with. I would encourage a look into the foster program in your county and state to learn more. You just never know where it will take you – our family of 2 became a family of 4!”
Dad Michael, Tucson, Arizona
“When I first became a foster parent I knew I was going to help a child, who through no fault of their own could not be with their biological family and I was going to love that child no matter what.”
Michael Foster began his parenting journey in 2012 and by the time both of his kids’ adoptions were finalized, it was December 2017. “During those 5 years I attended almost every court hearing, Foster Care Review Board Meeting, monthly meetings with the assigned mental health counsellor – even though they could not speak – and in-home visits with the my foster care agency and assigned state social worker. “Since the kids could not speak, I became their voice and fought for them at every step of the process.”
As a single dad working a full-time job in law enforcement, it was a challenge, but Michael feels incredibly lucky to be dad to his two kids.
Even in his early 20s, Michael knew he wanted to be a dad someday. Preferably with a partner but he never found one interested in becoming a dad. Michael was drawn to fostering as a way to help kids who were in need of love and a home. “The biggest challenge to becoming a foster parent was finding an agency that supported the LGBT community.” Thankfully he found one in Devereux, Arizona, that accepted him as a single gay man. Starting the process without a partner was difficult, but his friends and co-workers supported him during the entire process. “It’s not easy for me to ask for assistance but I’ve had to grow and learn just like the kids.”
Advice to future foster dads: Michael recommend others considering fostering to start talking to friends and family early. “Having those discussions will help you establish that support system you will need as a foster parent.” And, “please don’t try to measure up to anyone or fit a mold of some TV family. Family is crazy, loving, compassionate, forgiving, loving and most of all family is what matters most.”
Dads Arin and Derek, Phoenix, Arizona
“I felt like I had the desire, space, resources, and energy to help children who need a safe place to call home.”
When Arin first became licensed as a foster parent in 2016, he was single and he expected to temporarily care for one child at a time. But fate would have other plans. Soon after becoming licensed, Arin’s case manager called him about a 3 year old boy who needed a foster home, Arin agreed to meet him. “Great,” said his case worker. “He comes with a younger brother. See you tomorrow!”
Jordan and Carter had been in the foster community for 655 days, including a seventh month stay at an emergency children’s shelter. “They were having a difficult placing them together. When I met them, I just couldn’t bear to split them up so I agreed to foster them. I instantly fell in love with them,” said Arin.
A year later, Arin adopted them. Not long after, Arin met Derek.
Following Jordan and Carter’s adoption, Gays With Kids shared a photo of Arin and his boys, and Derek reached out to Arin directly to ask questions about becoming a single adoptive father. “He wanted to do the same thing,” said Arin. “We instantly hit it off and we knew we would be a family someday. Now, Derek and I are engaged and The Littles call us Daddy Derek and Daddy Arin.”
Watching their sons grow has been hugely rewarding. The boys have had to “overcome extreme tragedy, cope and grow from their experiences,” and now they’re thriving as little humans.
Advice to future foster dads: Like the dads above, Arin insists on the importance of finding a supportive agency to become licensed (recommending Child Crisis Arizona if folks are local), while also identifying your support crew – “it really does take a village.”
And ultimately: “Prepare to not be a perfect parent. There’s no such thing. You have a lot of love to share. Start sharing it with a child who only wants a family to call their own.”
Future dad, Mike, New York, NY
Being single did hold Mike back initially, but not for long. “Once I became comfortable with the idea of fostering alone, going through the training process has been just as exciting as I imagined it would’ve been with someone else. And I know now that it only takes one person to make a lasting difference in someone else’s life.”
Mike is becoming licensed with “You Gotta Believe!” – an incredible organization that works with finding permanent families for young adults, teens and pre-teens in foster care. “[Their purpose is] so that they have the support system they need to live safely and to their highest potential. The staff and fellow parents-to-be have all been so supportive and knowledgeable.”
He’s gone through the required training and is now finishing up his application materials. “I hope to be permanently fostering a child (or two!) within the next year!”
We can’t wait to watch this space, and check Mike out in our previous Guncle feature from two years ago.