One of the hardest things to hear about foster care is that some children age out of the system and never have a forever home. This story was a refreshing, hopeful account of how one father is doing all he can to help older children find a forever family. Joe Toles grew up in the foster care system and aged out at age 21 without being adopted. He never knew his birth parents. Now 59, he wants to help boys to have a sense of family he did not have.
He adopted 3 older children who lived with bad circumstances most of their lives. Xavier, 20, was involved with gangs and found himself in a group home by age 14. At 18, he was adopted by Joe. Now he can be found drawing or working on his music. Joe then adopted Jon, a 15-year-old who was a runaway and living in foster care. Now 17, Jon says he loves always knowing he has a place to go on all holidays for the rest of his life. The next boy to come into Joe’s care was Ronnie, 14. Like the other boys, he felt a lot of anger in his past, but has since opened up and started singing and smiling much more.
Joe says being single and having no extra support for a younger child led him to consider adopting older children. He originally wasn’t looking for a teenager; he envisioned a 9-year-old he could walk to the bus stop every morning. That idea faded once he met Xavier, who needed a home.
The boys all say they were afraid of the male figures in their lives before Joe. Joe is someone who showed them how to trust again. Xavier sees him as the only dad he’s ever known. A lot of stories are similar to that of these boys’. Once someone is living in poverty with a broken home and little hope for the future, the cycle of despair, violence, and incarceration can be hard to break.
Joe worked with You Gotta Believe, an agency whose mission is to get older children adopted and reduce homelessness. According to their website, more than 400,000 children are in the foster care system in the US. Nearly 25,000 of these children will age out of the system. They also cite a grim statistic that as many as half of the children aging out of the system will become homeless.
For more information on how to help these children through adoption or for donations, visit yougottabelieve.org.