May is National Foster Care Month. Now, with what’s going on in the world currently, nothing is untouched from the Coronavirus pandemic … and that includes the foster care system. Families in the system are having to spend time together over video chat instead of in person. Court dates are being rescheduled because of courts being shut down. My friend and former co-worker Herbert is left wondering if his foster son of 2 years, Ace, will stay with him or not.
I worked with Herbert for about a decade and I can tell you he’s one of the most magical people you will ever meet. When I started working at our company, people kept coming up to me saying, “Have you met Herbert yet?” “Oh, you have GOT to meet Herbert.” I soon understood why. Herbert’s the guy who knows everyone in the building and everything going on in their lives. He always, always says “hello” and a greeting from him will brighten your day. I sat next to him for years and loved listening about his kooky obsessions, like getting his hands on a sold-out Patti LaBelle Sweet Potato Pie. And he let me do a lot of talking, too—he’s a great listener. He’s a great son as well. He would call his dad daily to check in, even if he only had a minute or two to chat.
From Friend to Father
In 2018, Herbert became a foster parent. He was matched with a 2-year-old boy. Why? Herbert says becoming a father is something he always wanted. He idolized TV dads like “Mr. Brady” on the “Brady Bunch” and “Mr. Drummond” from “Diff’rent Strokes.” But as Herbert got older, he knew fatherhood in the traditional sense most likely was not going to happen for him. He looked into surrogacy and private adoption, but after some soul searching and talking with friends, he decided foster care was the right choice for him.
After completing the process, which Herbert calls lengthy but fair, he started getting calls about placements just a few days later! On March 12, 2018, Herbert was matched with a 2-year-old boy he says has changed his life forever.
Here’s how Herbert describes their meeting: “The way he was introduced to me is burned into my memory because of how heartbreaking it was. You’d think that each child would have their own individual social worker drop them off. But, because there are so many children in foster care, he was brought to my home in a DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services) van with several other children who were being taken to foster homes. All these precious kids had big blue duffel bags that contained everything they owned. It was such a sad sight. But on the bright side, they were all getting homes.”
Herbert says they clicked immediately. Ace made himself right at home and was soon playing with everything from the dog to Herbert’s beard!
Two years later, things are still going well. Herbert doesn’t know how much longer Ace will live with him, as it’s up to the courts. Herbert says, “Fear of what the future holds is very real,” although that doesn’t stop him from recommending foster care to others who may be interested in becoming parents. “I would tell them to go for it! It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done. My foster child has changed my life in so many ways. I feel like he is teaching me to be a better person. And it’s like being a kid all over again seeing things through his eyes now.”
As well as being a big LaBelle fan, he’s a self-proclaimed comic book geek and says he’s found his sidekick. The Robin to his Batman.
“Knowing that I have made life better for one little boy is a good feeling and it gives me a sense of purpose. This is what I’m supposed to be doing at this point in my life and it’s the greatest feeling ever.”
I don’t know Ace’s birth family and Herbert tells me the courts encourage family reunification. Who I do know is Herbert and he’s a wonderful and loving person. Whatever the courts decide, I truly hope it’s the very best thing for Ace. Herbert says he tries not to think too much about it. But he and Ace will be on my mind as the pandemic continues through National Foster Care Month.