FOSTERING FATHERHOOD: Dads choose to bring kids into family
By Lauren Johnson
John Roberts and Dr. Eric Law are fathers who have been called to be foster parents.
John Roberts, the owner and president of AirTek, and his wife Debbie Roberts have been foster parents for about 20 years, and together they have fostered over 30 children.
“It’s obviously changed our whole life,” Roberts laughed. “People say ‘Oh, these kids are so lucky to have y’all,’ but we really feel like we’re the ones who get a blessing from it.”
Roberts explained that his wife was first called into foster care like a ministry and feels that the Lord was working in her life. “It was placed on her heart that doing foster care was something that we needed to do,” he said. “She took the initiative to get us involved in it, and after we got involved, I became pretty committed to it too.”
This past year, Roberts fostered four kids who brought a lot of joy into his house, keeping him busy by taking them to ball practices and games. “It has kept our home young and vibrant and active. There’s certainly never a dull moment,” he said with a smile.
“Mentally, we can’t get old because we stay active with them and with what they’re doing. It’s kept us a lot more active in that area than we ever would have been,” he said.
One of Roberts’ favorite moments of being a foster dad is when he comes home from work and the kids come running down the hall calling him daddy. He describes it as a very special moment.
Last year, he and his wife adopted a two-year-old who they had been fostering, and currently they have five children in the home with ages ranging from 2 years old to 14 years old.
“I can’t imagine what it would be like just the two of us without any kids in the house,” Roberts said. “There’s just so much joy in the day to day routine, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
While Roberts would never trade the opportunity to do foster care, he explained that being a foster parent does come with hardships. “It is very hard at times, but family life can be hard for everybody. It’s no different form a normal family in that respect,” he said.
“The longer the child stays, the harder it is to see them leave. One of the biggest factors is whether or not you feel like they are going back to a secure environment or not,” he said. “We’ve had some children who have left and gone back to what we’ve felt like was a secure environment, but we’ve also had some go back to what we were very concerned was not a secure environment, and that’s probably the most difficult part of foster care.”
Even though many people are afraid to become foster parents because they don’t think they would be able to let the child go, Roberts said “You have to consider, if a child is in foster care, somebody has to take care of them. And after all, you aren’t doing it for your own benefit, but you’re doing it to help the child.”
“All the counties around here are short on foster parents, and it would be great to see more people willing to get involved in the lives of some of these kids,” he said.
John and Debbie Roberts’ main priority is to give the children they have under their care as much love as they can. They try to plant seeds of faith in the children’s heart and after they leave, the Roberts continue to pray for them.
Because their home is full right now, they aren’t actively seeking additional foster care children or any long-term children. “We’re still open to respite care, which is short term foster care for a weekend or a few days,” said Roberts. He explained that respite care is short-term care for a child whose foster parents need a weekend off or need to go somewhere or do something.
Dr. Eric Law of Southern Heath Associates and his wife Teresa are another foster parent couple. They started foster care two years ago and are hopeful to finalize an adoption within the next couple of months.
“It wasn’t our plan going into this to adopt, but it was a unique situation. Early on in the process, we saw that we were going to have him for a while, and just like fostering, the adoption part of it was a calling,” Law said. It was an easy decision for them to say yes to adoption because of how lovable the young boy is.
Dr. Law and his wife decided to become foster parents after an annual Christmas event where they helped provide gifts for foster kids, and they found out that Pike County is in desperate need for people to do foster care. “It took us about a year to get our license and two weeks later we got our first placement. He came to us when he was two months old and he just turned two years old recently,” said Law.
He explained that when getting the license to become a foster parent, the state wants people who are involved and who care. The state wants people to be educated with the process and on certain aspects of how to foster a child and how to interact with biological parents.
“There’s about 30 hours of classes we had to take, a couple of home inspections, finger printing, safety classes, and all sorts of stuff. It’s a fairly intensive process,” he said.
While there are a lot of steps to take before officially becoming a foster parent, it’s worth it. “For me and Teresa, fostering is a part of a pro-life mentality,” he said. “We believe that every person is special and is valued because God made them in his image.” Dr. Law looks to God’s example of a good father and tries to show that love to others.
The Laws also have two biological sons, one who is 11 years old and another who is 8 years old. Dr. Law explains that one of the most special parts is how his sons have embraced the foster kids. “Over the last couple of years, they have gotten to think about what it’s like in other families and the kind of situations that can put families in hard times,” he said. “They’ve been asked to stretch in certain ways to make our family bigger. That’s asking a lot of them, but they’ve really enjoyed it.”
Dr. Law explains that his two sons love the little boy they have been fostering for 22 months and plan to adopt and have embraced him as their little brother. “It’s a special thing for them to get to see that family is not about biology, but that it’s about love,” he said.
One of the most touching parts for Law has been watching his own parents get involved with his foster children. “My dad is my hero on earth,” Law said. “He taught me how to care about and care for people. To watch our little boy take to him and start calling him ‘granddaddy’ and to see my dad, who loves kids, latch on to him and love him like any other grandchild has been truly special.”
Dr. Law also mentioned that many people do not do foster care because they are afraid of having to let go of a child. “It’s true and understandable, but you have to remember that for the fostering process, the perfect, ideal ending is for the child to be reunited with their birth family.”