Sam wanted to be a dad. His own dad wasn’t a very good dad, and he knew in his heart he could do it better. He and his wife were asked to adopt a baby of a woman who had worked with the wife, and they brought their son Eddie home from the hospital. By the time they were able to save up to adopt Eddie, he was six and in school. After the adoption was finalized, they asked to become foster parents, and finished that training and certification the following year. Eddie was ready for a brother. Then, sadly, Sam’s wife asked for a divorce and moved out of state, leaving Eddie and Sam as a family of two.
Sam did not give up. He and Eddie moved forward to be a foster family for another boy, hoping for a brother for Eddie, a little older or younger. To their surprise, the first placement they agreed to was a seventeen, homeless, and chronically truant youth, Donte. Donte stayed with them for a couple of months. Every time Donte struggled, Sam would tell him, “I gotchu son,” we will get through this. That included Donte’s first camping trip, his first time ever to the beach, helping Donte to pay truancy fines, and making sure Donte got to visit with his family when they could. When Donte was living with an aunt, and then with his birth mother, he still called Sam for help. Sam kept telling him, “I gotchu son.”
After Donte left the home, Sam and Eddie went back to their search for a son and brother. Within a month, the same county called and asked if Sam was available as a respite home for Joey, who was struggling in his foster home. The prior foster family felt that Joey was not engaged with them, and that he was uncaring and cold. He felt alone and misunderstood by them. Sam picked Joey up after work on Friday for the weekend. That was in November, and he has never left.
Joey came with a different set of challenges. He didn’t want to leave his old school but had to because he was no longer in that school district. He hated his new school and struggled with the work. Sam said, “I gotchu son,” and now Joey is in a cyber-school program working along with Sam, who works from home. Joey wanted to learn to drive, and Sam said, “I gotchu son,” and now Joey has his license. Joey wanted to know where his mom was buried, and Sam said, “I gotchu son,” and they found her grave in time to put flowers on it for her birthday.
Sam is not a perfect parent. He gives in and lets his kids off the hook. He buys them things that are expensive when they really want them. He lets them play a lot of video games. On the other hand, he is a fierce advocate for what each foster child needs. He understands that adolescent boys need a parent they can talk to and feel heard by. He gets that there has to be balance between supervision and freedom. He learned from his parent’s “mistakes.”
Joey recently told Sam that, even though he is turning eighteen in May, he would like to be adopted. Sam said, “I gotchu son.”
Rachel Kuhr is the Director of JFS’ Adoption and Foster Care Program. To learn more about our program, please visit our website.