My Story: Patrick Foley

Today, guest contributor Patrick M. Foley shares the story of how he built his family, and what being a dad means to him. Amazing story, and amazing photo!

I was recruited by DC’s Child and Family Services Agency to house gay teens about 10 years ago. At the time I really didn’t have any thoughts of actually starting a family, I just figured I’d be a foster parent and see what developed.

My oldest son is now 26 years old, and has been with me from the start. After about 2 years I asked him if he’d like to become an older brother. I figured, I had the space, the resources, and the patience to work with teenagers, so why not add another? My son agreed, so we brought Eric in to join the family. Eric is now 24, and still living with me (my oldest son got his own apartment about a year ago, but is still very much part of the family.).

About a year later I asked Eric if he’d like to become an older brother, and then we added Emmanuel. Isaiah and West were added a few years later. I became the legal Guardian of all of the boys because their families didn’t want to terminate their legal rights. I let the boys know I didn’t care whether I was a Guardian or Adoptive Parent to them. To me, they were my family, and they’ll never age-out of my family.

Last Friday I welcomed another 13 year old boy (my 6th) to the family, and will bring in a second 13 year old in a few weeks.

It’s certainly a full house, and there’s never a dull moment. I love them all, and would take 10 more if I had a bigger house. My only regret is that I didn’t start this earlier.

I’m a single parent, and was working full time when I started this journey. Teenagers made sense to me because they’re old enough to let themselves into the house after school, and fix a snack and start their homework while I’m still at work. This is without a doubt, the hardest job I’ve ever loved.

Family Building, Week 2

We continue our January theme of family building, with posts that focus on questions like:

  • What made you decide to have kids?
  • Did you have any criteria for what kind of kid you wanted, and why?
  • How did you decide on your process (adoption, surrogacy, etc.)?
  • What memorable moments occurred during your process, good or bad?

This week’s excerpt from Magic Lessons looks at my experience in that necessary evil of the fost-adopt process, training:

In training, one of the first things you learn is the definition of a special needs child. This includes, believe it or not, a child with a diagnosed special need such as a physical, emotional, or developmental disability. However, again at least in California, it also includes the following:

  • Any child over two
  • Any child who is not white
  • Any siblings

So, yeah: You could fost-adopt a future president of the United States, and if he or she is three, or Latino, or has a sister who’s also in foster care, that child is special needs. I actually hit the trifecta: My kids were both over two and not white and part of a sibling set. Yahtzee! The good news is, the county gives you a (meager, but every penny counts) monthly stipend for these “special” kids, up to age eighteen. The bad news is . . . really?

Anyway, other things you learn in training include the following:

  • How to discipline
  • How not to discipline
  • All the attachment disorders you can expect to see
  • How there’s a good chance you won’t see these disorders until your kid hits puberty
  • The honeymoon
  • How not to be fooled by the honeymoon
  • What to do when the honeymoon ends—probably much sooner and more abruptly than seems reasonable

Now it’s your turn! Share your family-building story by leaving a comment, or contact me at joe@jmswordsmith.com to have your story featured as a post in a future week!