Father’s Day is one of those days we look back and remember special men who truly earn the title “Dad”.  My Dad was one of them – a hard working man, he raised 8 kids who all still hold his memory so dear.  Life was different when I was growing up.  To raise eight children on a modest income seems so impossible in this day and age.  My Dad made sure our basic needs were met, and then he added in love, which made our lives joyful and happy.  I miss him deeply.

The saying goes that “Any man can be a Father, but it takes someone very special to be a DAD”.  I still view my Dad as my hero.  He was a simple man, but had a smile and a twinkle in his eye that always made me feel good about myself, I knew I was loved.

At Arizona Helping Hands, it is so wonderful to meet guys everyday like my Dad.  Simple men, who do the right thing – and more – to make lives better for children who need them.  Any biological parent knows how tough parenting can be – and they have 9 months of preparation to get ready for the role.  That’s why foster dads (and moms) hold a special place in my heart.

Imagine finding yourself in a circumstance where, at a moment’s notice, you are called on to become that one caring adult that a hurting child so desperately needs.  I’ve had the honor to meet some amazing men called into action who became instant parents.  I question how they can possibly manage, but they let their heart for children lead the way.

I’ve written about some of these guys – Mr. B, the school teacher who never had kids, (claimed he) didn’t know how to parent, but opened up his heart and his home to one of his 5th grade students who’d been in a horrible situation.  AND THEN, upon learning that this boy might be separated from his younger brother, stood up and said “You can’t do that!  I will parent them both!”  Mr. B changed his life in an instant and put these kids needs above his own.

Or Nick, who referred to himself as a 27 year old “single guy with a dog” when by chance (or fate) he found and rescued a 12 year old boy who had been abused and was crying out for help.  He told me their eyes connected on that fateful day – Nick saw the hurt in the child’s eyes, the boy saw hope in Nick’s and they became an instant family.  Nick became a DAD in a matter of hours, not months!

With foster parents, you also need to consider that there is no baby shower, there is no early bonding period.  The child is basically dropped into your hands at 4, 8, 12 year’s old, warts and all.  The complexities of parenting multiply dramatically when you suddenly become the parent to a child who has experienced trauma or abuse, one who can’t trust and is sure to push every button possible.  What a difficult position to open yourself up to.

For many children, all that it takes to counteract the effects of trauma is a relationship with one caring adult.  To Mr. B, Nick and all the foster and adoptive parents out there who choose to become that One Caring Adult, I offer this poem from the web titled “Real Dad”:

Some people would say you’re not my real Dad, but I know this isn’t true.

For you’ve been a real Dad to me in all the things we’ve been through.

We’ve had our ups and downs, sometimes it’s hard to bend.

But you’ve always been there for me when I needed you and that’s what matters in the end.

You’ve been patient, kind and firm over the years as I’ve grown,

And I’m eternally grateful to you because you’ve treated me as your own.

For though we’re not tied by bloodlines the love and trust you’ve given me

Is a precious gift day after day – that’s what counts as a REAL DAD to me!

Happy Father’s Day to all the REAL DADS, you are so appreciated!