Almost everyone thinks of their childhood as a time when they were loved and taught how to live in the world by kind and understanding people.
When I reflect on my childhood, I remember how much my parents gave up on me. They showed me lots of love, ensured I always felt safe and protected and told me that no matter what happened, my family would always be there for me.
Not every child can be said to be like this, however. Some people are born into families where they aren’t much of a priority. Some are treated badly, and others are hurt.
This happened to Anthony, a little boy whose birth parents and adoptive parents left him. Anthony now has a new father who loves him, which is a good thing. Still, his story is full of twists and turns, and if not for the kindness of one person, it could have ended very differently.
Peter M. is the man in question. He told LoveWhatMatters the sad story of how he became Anthony’s guardian and father.
Anthony was put into foster care when he was young and lived with other kids from the neighborhood. When he was 4, he moved to Oklahoma with a family who raised him there. Six years after he was adopted, he was rushed to a hospital close to his home. No one ever saw or talked about them again.
Peter told LoveWhatMatters, “They never came back to get the son who had called them Mom and Dad for years.”
“All of the promises of a forever family were broken, and this young child was left alone, scared, and emotionally broken. Even worse, he didn’t know if or when they would come back for him because he didn’t know about their plan to leave their child. Most people couldn’t understand why a parent would do something like this to their child, but it wasn’t the first time. Peter was simultaneously taking care of two brothers, ages 4 and 10. He says that they taught him a lot about love and changed the way he thought about life.
Peter wrote in his letter, “They were really in my heart.” During the seven months, the boys were with me. I did what I could to help them and their parents. When the Family Court said it was OK for them to return to their birth parents, I helped them get back with them. I tried to help them and their parents as much as I could. Everything went down an hour after I got to court. Many people had to do much work to become foster parents. So much of my heart was in the boys, and I didn’t know how to say goodbye. The next hour-long drive home was very emotional. I was very sad. People who had been a part of my life for a long time often made me cry. When I thought about how great it would be for the whole family, it was nice for them to see their parents again.
Then, only four days after saying goodbye to the boys for the last time, Peter got a call from his social workers asking if he could take in an 11-year-old boy for the weekend.
On the other hand, Peter didn’t think he could care for another child so soon after being separated from his siblings, whom he had loved and cared for.
He kept saying that he needed more time to grieve during the back-and-forth. He finally agreed to take the child because she told him it would only be for the weekend. She had a way of making me think that this child was the right one at the right time when we talked. Boy, did she have a point, especially in this situation?
I didn’t ask him why he was living with a foster family. I couldn’t take getting my feelings hurt anymore, and I didn’t want to get attached while I was still hurting from my loss. I decided that if the placement went on longer than the agreed-upon two nights, I wouldn’t let him stay any longer because I was afraid of getting attached to him again and giving in to the pain of loss. Not to mention that I hadn’t had a break in seven months, during which time I had taken care of three children. I needed at least a month or two to get my strength back.
The social worker drove two hours from another county in the same state to get to my house at 3 a.m. Because there aren’t enough foster homes in Oklahoma, social workers often have to move kids out of their home county, taking them away from the only home they’ve ever known. Add to that the fact that older children are much harder to find homes for, and the social worker was left with no other choice.
I didn’t care why he was living with a foster family. I was very careful not to care about other kids until I was ready to. Then, 20 minutes later, he asked if he could call me “Dad,” and I said that was fine. What? I had no idea what his name was. He said that he wanted people to call him “Dad.” When you were in foster care, most children would tell you immediately that you were not their father and never would be. That’s not what this child I’d just met said. At first said to me, “No, no, no!” I told him he would only stay with me for two days, so he didn’t need to call me “Dad.”
By Monday morning, Peter had worked up the courage to ask the social worker why Anthony was sent to live with his foster parents. He started to cry when he heard the whole story, including the fact that Anthony had been left twice in his short life.
“I was completely shocked,” he said.
“I couldn’t say anything when I heard what I heard. I started crying because I was so angry about what these adults had done to this 11-year-old kid.
LoveWhatMatters says that he said, “I had no idea such a thing even existed.” I found out later that this is called a “failed adoption.” After almost a decade, the parents of an adopted child were able to give her back to the state as if she were a disposable item. This broke my heart into a thousand pieces. How could a human being, let alone a child, be left like this? After all these years, how could they leave without wanting to see or hear him again?” As I sat there crying without hope, I asked, “Where are they going to take him?” I was told that he would have to leave my home and go to a group home because he had no family to call and no foster homes were available. It was clear that wouldn’t happen.
“I wouldn’t let him be left on his own again. Even better, he was already calling me “Dad.” I asked the social worker for a placement letter so I could put him in school the next day. She asked me a hundred times if I was serious, making us laugh loudly. I told her that she would never have to worry about where he would get food, a place to live or love again. I was happy for him to call me “Dad” for as long as he wanted.
On November 12, I finally gave the young man, who is now legally my son, my last name. This is the best thing to happen to me in my whole life. It has been a wonderful trip. Over the past three years, I’ve fostered eleven kids, and Anthony has been there every step of the way. In the past 19 months, he has read more than 500 books and made some great friends at church, school, and the foster community. I’m always impressed by his strength and positivity, even when things are hard.
Wow! This story about love and care is so sweet. We’re glad that Anthony has a father figure now.