A Tribute to Foster Dads in Honor of Father's Day
When I was talking with a friend who is also a foster mom the other day, she said to me, “As important as what we do is as foster moms, I think what our husbands do is even more important.” In spite of the fact that we both are stay-at-home moms and spend much more time with our kids than our husbands, the significance of a positive male role model for children in foster care cannot be underestimated. We have welcomed four children into our home, and only one of them had a positive male role model in his life, but it wasn’t his father.
Don’t get me wrong; I have a great appreciation for foster moms, especially single foster moms. The children in their homes are fortunate to have great models for strong women. It is still important for children to have adults of both sexes in their lives who can be good role models, whether or not the role models are their parents (or foster parents). Some foster children do have loving fathers who are positive role models and working hard to reunite with their children. Unfortunately, there are a large number of children in foster care that either have absent fathers or fathers who have been an example of violence and misogyny.
One reason foster fathers can have such a great impact is because there is a high degree of overlap between child maltreatment and domestic violence. Though women can certainly be perpetrators of domestic violence, the reality is that the majority of the time it is men who are the main perpetrators of domestic violence, especially severe physical violence. Because of this, having men to show foster children a different model for manhood is critical in battling the devastating problem of domestic violence in general and generational violence in particular.
I have seen the harmful impact of fathers who are not good role models first hand. Unfortunately, our little guy’s biological father is neither a good role model nor someone who can provide a safe home for his children. Our child’s Mom has asked us to adopt, and the county started the process of terminating his father’s parental rights. Unless something unexpected happens, he will thankfully not be the main male role model for our little guy.
Our foster son is young enough that he may remember little, if anything about his father, but one day he will ask and I believe in telling the truth in an age-appropriate way. When our he learns about his biological father’s history, I hope that he will have a firm enough understanding of himself and a strong enough positive image of manhood that he will know that he can choose a different path.
When children do return home to fathers who are not good role models, as a couple of our children have, having a foster father or other positive male role model can show them a different standard for manhood. Children often know little about adult relationships and family dynamics outside of their own family. Seeing parental figures interacting with them and each other in a healthy way teaches them that what they have seen in their families of origin is not the only way. Experiencing a healthy family and a kind and loving father, even temporarily, can have a lasting, positive, impact on children.