Dear ole’ dad—Pops, Daddy, Abba. Dads have had a significant impact on many of our lives. From helping us reach our milestones to teaching us to play sports to walking their children down the aisle, a Dad is important. Whether they are foster dads, adoptive dads, or biological dads, each serves a purpose. Their strength, their leadership, and their faithfulness to their family are an inspiration to us all. Before I get into those types of dads, I would like to share with you three men who shaped my life. 

My 3 Dads

Three men impacted my life: my grandfather, my stepdad, and my biological father. I have never not had a man in my life who has been there for me to care for me, to protect me, mentor me, and to teach me. 

My Grandfather

The first was my grandfather. For the first two years of my life, my mom and I lived with Grandpa D. Through the years, he played baseball with me, gave me swimming tips, and always had a word of encouragement.

My Grandfather was a family historian and very proud of his Black History. He was a war hero, but never regaled us with any of his stories. When he died in 2010, and we were going through his belongings, we found many medals that were awarded to him from World War II. My Grandfather led a family of 10 on a single income and lived to meet10 grandchildren and scores of great-grandchildren.

Most of all, my grandfather took us in when my mom was an 18 y/o single mom. And in later years, my grandparents’ home would always be a safe haven where I knew there would be enough food, and an abundance of love, peace, and happiness. I inherited from him patience, perseverance, and a dedication to family. 

My Stepdad 

My Dad married my mom when I was 2 years old. He sheltered us; he gave me his name and a future. He bought me my first baseball glove, taught me to play basketball, and stressed the importance of education. He also gave me an appreciation and love for music. With that appreciation, I learned to play the Tenor Saxophone and got so good at it that I earned a spot on the Citywide Orchestra in Brooklyn NY.

When I was 16, my mom sat me down and explained that the man I called “Dad” was not my father. She explained that my biological dad abandoned me and my mom when I was two years old and moved to California. They never got married and he never contacted us after all those years. 

She went on to explain that my dad, really my stepdad, married my mom in the absence of my biological father when I was two. That revelation shocked me: my dad was my stepdad. I had lots of questions: Who am I? Why was I not wanted? Why was there no attempt to contact me? I realized that my brother was my half-brother. And I had a father who I never knew. At first, I was angry and depressed. But, over the years, I had grown to have an appreciation for what my dad did.

He took me to his home, gave me his last name, and raised me as his own. He adopted me. I suppose he was one of my inspirations that led me to pursue adoption. From my dad, I inherited a love for sports, music, and dedication to hard work. 

My Biological Father

After getting married and adopting our first child, I went on a journey to find my biological father. I had little to go on except his name and possible location and old telephone books from California. I searched and searched for 10 years. Then, I purchased my first personal computer and narrowed my search down to five possible people. 

I wrote five letters and mailed them. Two weeks later, I received the call of my life. The voice on the other end of the line said he knew my mother and that he was my biological father. After a 10-year search, I finally achieved my goal.

When I finally met my birth father face to face, for the first time in 2001, it was very surreal. I got to see, hear, and touch my own father for the first time. It was like a dream come true. Over the years, folks have told me we look alike and have the same mannerisms. 

I discovered that we had so much in common, but best of all, he told me he was a Christian and had been praying for me for years. In later years I have made many trips to California and met siblings I never knew I had. From my bio father, I inherited my faith, dry sense of humor, and solid, positive worldview. 

Foster Dad

What I have inherited from all three men in my life is a passion for foster care and adoption. I have not allowed negative circumstances to discourage or deter me. Rather, I have learned to care for other people’s children, to show hospitality, and to pour my life into the lives of others. Isn’t that what foster and adoptive fathers do? 

Foster dads are indispensable. Kids experience true protection and provision from a dad. They learn unconditional love, appropriate affection, and how to be treated with respect. They learn patience, silent strength, and the value of hard work. Even if a child’s stay is short in any particular foster home, the things they learn from a foster dad can last a lifetime.

Adoptive Dad

Adoptive dads can leave a legacy far more than just a surname. Adoptive dads provide a lifetime of wisdom, direction, and support for adoptees, through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Adoptive dads leave a legacy of love that adoptees can then pass down to their children. Adoptive dads can build a connection and a bond with their children. 

Guardians and Fathers Through Kinship Adoption

One of my greatest memories as a social worker was assisting a dad through a grueling adoption certification process. This single dad was attempting to adopt two relatives but ran into language barriers, housing challenges, and immigration issues. But, after two years, he finally reached his goal and adopted the children. 

I remember the court that day at the final adoption hearing. The judge granted the adoption, banged his gavel, and signed the adoption order, making the adoption official. The dad led his entire family in prayer and, with tears in his eyes, led his family in one big group hug. He finally achieved his forever family. It is a moment I will never forget.

Biological Dad

Many children in foster care are the victims of abuse or neglect. Others do not know their fathers at all. Many children in foster care do get reunited with their biological family. Reunification is a great accomplishment. That means that the family of origin recovered and corrected whatever the crisis was. Be it homelessness, unemployment, or substance abuse, these families obtained the support they needed and got their children back. That is fantastic.

Dad and Open Adoption

In my experience, two of my adopted children (not siblings) have two open adoptions with their fathers. This means we share photos, phone calls, and visits with my kids and their fathers. I am raising other men’s kids. I am their dad, but I share limited contact with their biological dads. Having contact with the biological family is vital. This leaves the door open to having a connection with family history, medical history, culture, and heritage. Adoptive families may have some anxiety or trepidation about having open contact. My experience has been largely positive. We have expectations and guidelines, and those are well-managed and respected. In short, my children know that their physical heritage is from their bio dad, but their spiritual heritage is from me, their adopted dad.

Children need strong examples. Whether it is their dad, their adopted dad, their grandfather, or a mentor, dads can make a difference in the world. Their leadership, their strength, their guidance, and wisdom can influence children and youth for generations to come. Next Father’s Day, show your appreciation to a dad and let them know you have their back.