In light of Father’s Day, we reflect on the men in our lives and the difference that a good man can have on his children. Why are fathers important? To all men out there, regardless of your connection to fatherhood, I say, kids need you. Foster kids, kids available for adoption, kids in your extended family, all children need good men in life. In the adoption community, the vast majority of individuals who seek to be foster or adoptive parents are women. And that’s great. But kids need fostering/adoption dads as well. There are over 400,000 children in foster care, and 100,000 of these children are available for adoption. More homes are needed. More men who are willing to step up as fathers are needed.
Why Don’t More Men Join the Foster or Adoptive Community?
Let’s just talk about the “elephant in the room,” as it might be called. We need more foster/adoptive dads. Sadly, there seem to be many men who shy away from foster and adoption care because it is not in life’s goal to become a foster father. Many husbands are dragged into the foster/adoptive community, kicking and screaming, figuratively speaking, behind wives. While there are good men out there who do step up to the plate, even more children would be blessed if more men would take the lead. By doing so, men would realize how much of a privilege of raising a foster or adoptive child would be. So, why don’t more men do so?
-Slow development. Bluntly put, many men do not want to become foster fathers because some men are not developmentally adults yet. Adolescence seems to be taking longer and longer, nowadays, to mature out of. Just because a boy turns 18 years of age doesn’t mean he is ready to take on the responsibilities of an adult. For many young people, especially those who have experienced trauma, some are chronologically adults, but developmentally are still adolescents. Because some men may not have had a good example of a father or mentor, those men have no one else to look to, except images on TV, or negative influences on the street. Because some men may have been traumatized as a child and never recovered from that trauma, these men simply are continuing what is comfortable. If men still need time to grow up, that is perfectly ok.
-Men who make bad choices. In order to become foster or adoptive parents, background checks need to be conducted–some men cannot pass these background checks due to poor choices in the past. There are some who have used power to take advantage of women, who abused substances, and who was in and out of jail. Many of these men could be former foster children who never obtained a good foundation when aged out of the system. Therefore, some men may not be eligible to care for others.
-Gender roles. Some men think it is the woman’s job to care for the children. And while many women take the lead in that role while a child is an infant, men have just as a powerful influence on children. Kids, regardless of situation and age, need male guidance in life.
A Possible Solution
Kids need fathers. Good fathers. Studies show that children fare much better with a positive male role model in life, or in other words, a father figure. Children who have a strong male role model in life regularly do better in school, are more productive in society and tend to stay out of jail.
5 Reasons Why Fathers Are Important to Girls
It is not unusual for a 5-year-old girl to say to her father, “Daddy, when I grow up, I want to marry you!” She obviously doesn’t quite get the concept of marriage at that age. All she knows is that marriage is reserved for the man she loves the most. What better example of love is there than the love a girl receives from her father? Sadly, due to divorce, abandonment, or foster care, many girls do not have this opportunity. It is not her fault. It is not her mom’s fault. And although moms do phenomenal jobs raising children, girls need a strong, consistent male figure in life as well, whether it is a foster dad, an adoptive dad, a grandad, or some other strong male role model in life. Here are some reasons fathers are valuable in a girl’s life:
- Girls need fathers to show her what true love is. Sadly, sometimes, a girl’s first impression of love comes from what she sees on TV, on Instagram, or what she watches in a music video. It has been said that boys will give up love for intimacy, but girls will give up that intimacy to get love. Girls need to see unconditional love. A strong male figure can help do that. Girls need to know that love and intimacy are not necessarily the same thing. Some girls may have been tragically sexually abused and have the concept that to gain love and acceptance, girls must flaunt sexuality. A strong male in a girl’s life will show her what appropriate affection is and what true love is, which leads to my next point.
- A girl’s first love should be her father. A strong male role model shows her what true love is. That a man can give her love without expecting anything. That love is not based on physicality. That love is the embodiment of humility. That love can be gentle.
- A girl’s self-esteem should be based on what her father thinks of her in an uplifting way. The time in a girl’s life where her self-image, self-concept, and self-esteem are challenged the most is during adolescence. Middle school classmates can be relentless. And with the advent of social media, the teasing and bullying occur 24/7. A father can set the foundation for a positive self-image to any girl when his love is unconditional. She will be able to survive attacks on her body image from her peers as well as attacks on her complexion, intellect, and social acumen. She is better equipped to deal with society because she has positive, affirming words ingrained in her mind from her father. When she hears from her father, early in her life, “I love your” or “You’re beautiful! “or “you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it” or “You’re my Princess!” it sets a foundation for when she encounters people who aren’t so affirming.
- Girls need to see how to be shown respect from a man. When a girl receives respect from a father, it sets the foundation for what type of relationship she may want for the rest of her life. Because her father shows her respect, that respect may be returned, and she may take her father’s advice as to what type of man she should date and marry later on in life. Furthermore, she may want to marry a person similar to her father who showed her the same respect, not one who is disrespectful, unfaithful, or abusive.
- Girls need to see a man treat her mother with respect. We mimic what we see. When a girl sees a man treat her mom with respect, she will tend to choose a man who does the same, in the future.
5 Reasons Why Fathers Are Important to Boys
We hear the saying “like father, like son.” History records many sons following in his father’s footsteps–John Quincy Adams and John Adams, George W Bush George H. W. Bush, and Michael Douglas and Kirk Douglas. The vast majority of sons want to make fathers proud. Therefore, growing up like a father is something a boy may aspire to. If a boy does not have that opportunity, a foster dad or adoptive dad can fill that much-needed role. A foster/adoptive dad can fill in where the birth father could not. Below are some reasons why a positive male role model works wonders for young men.
- Boys need to see a positive male role model in life. Many boys in foster care here in the U.S. or in orphanages overseas rarely get the chance to see positive male figures. Boys may turn to sports figures, TV or movie stars, or turn to less than stellar role models in the streets. If a boy has had an abusive biological dad, or has an emotionally distant dad, or has been abandoned by a dad, his idea of fatherhood may be a bit skewed. The cycle of abuse, neglect, and abandonment is likely to continue well into the next generation without the intervention of a good father figure. He doesn’t necessarily need a lecturer but needs someone whose actions speak louder than words. So rather than someone who says, “Respect your mother,” the boy needs to see what that looks like in real life. Rather than saying “don’t do drugs,” the father needs to demonstrate an addiction-free life himself.
- Boys need male guidance during puberty and adolescence. The teen years are one of turbulence for boys. The physical, social, emotional, and spiritual changes that take place are unprecedented. Surviving puberty and adolescence is akin to trying to eat soup with chopsticks, blindfolded, while riding a roller-coaster, so to speak. Who better to guide a boy through the teen years than someone who has survived those years?
- Boys need to learn self-discipline and self-control from a father. One thing that separates boys from good men is self-discipline and self-control. It is often believed that boys can be destructive or more impulsive. This may not be the full truth. Boys are naturally curious and want to see how things work. What a boy need is a man to teach him how to put things back together. This takes discipline and control. Many boys, especially those who have been traumatized at a young age, may be emotionally scarred because of the abuse or neglect witnessed or endured. A boy may not have been able to control what happened to him or his family, but he can try to control how he reacts. A man can have a calming effect on a boy. When a man demonstrates how to keep his emotions under control, he subconsciously shows how to react in stressful, pressurized, sometimes traumatic situations.
- Boys need to see gentle strength demonstrated by a father. It is one thing to be physically strong. It is another to be emotionally strong. It is important to use his strength to serve and help others, not to tear down and destroy. Boys need to understand the difference between someone who can be angry, without being violent, someone who can be strong without being overbearing, and someone who can lead without being controlling. Boys need to see virtues such as humility, forgiveness, compassion, and personal responsibility. Boys may not have seen this in life, but now as a foster child, boys have an opportunity to see this in a foster father.
- Boys need to see hard work demonstrated by a father. Work is not a curse, but a blessing. It is an opportunity for a young man to use his creative skills to help his community. When a boy sees his father get up every morning to go to a job that he may or may not like, it unconsciously teaches him the importance of hard work, perseverance, and delayed gratification.
As a foster-adoption social worker, I have encouraged and cheered on many single foster moms who have the difficult task of working, cooking, bathing, tutoring, driving, and disciplining kids all independently. Single foster/adopt moms are to be applauded. A mother’s nurturing instincts and intuition are unparalleled. My advice to you is to keep doing what you are doing, but add this to your child’s life–a positive male role model. Whether a youth pastor or a tutor or a Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) or a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters, there are men out there willing to be a father to your child. Don’t underestimate how valuable and influential the role of a good man can play in the life of your child.
If you are a young woman who has been hurt by a man, my heart goes out to you. That should not have been. I am sorry your experience was bad. But not all men are bad–there are good men out there. Find a professional who can meet your child’s needs.
If you are a young man considering becoming a foster father or adoptive father, go for it. Father’s Day shows us how the influence of a good man is prized in this world and how you can fill that role for a child. I can tell you from experience that it is one of the greatest experiences you will ever go through. Will it be hard? Yes. Will it be worth it? Absolutely. Give it a shot.
Derek Williams is an adoption social worker and has been in the field of child welfare and behavioral health since 2006, where he has assisted families in their adoption journey. He and his wife started their adoption journey in 1993 and have 8 children: 6 of which are adopted. His adoption children are all different ethnicities including East Indian, Jamaican, and Native American. He loves traveling with his family, especially to the East Coast and to the West Coast and is an avid NY Mets fan! Foster care and adoption is a passion and calling for Derek, and he is pleased to share his experiences with others who are like-minded.