When nuclear families are broken, families of a new kind are formed.
“It’s nice to have a mommy and daddy,” William Vega, a single dad, said to his son Jaiden. “But do you really need a mommy and daddy? No, as long as you have somebody there to love you. I’m loving you right now for mommy and papi.”
When 14 month old Jaiden needed a home after being taken away from his biological mother, Vega decided to step in. Vega fostered Jaiden and then formerly adopted him after maternal rights were terminated. He is currently fostering a toddler, in hopes of eventually adopting him as well.
This is not your typical household, nor is it a mere transient shelter. As our society becomes more accepting of differences, single dads step up and take on the quest of parenting foster children. They are also making the conscious choice of adopting these children who are in dire need of a long term and loving home.
“There have been studies on same sex parenting and the majority of the studies have focused on two mommy households,” said Judith Kaufman, a psychology professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University. The single dad phenomenon “is virtually new in terms of what we call a family.”
Just like William Vega, Austin Kyle is part of this new phenomenon. Coming from a background of foster care himself, he felt that he wanted to somehow make a difference. “I know the benefits of that,” said Kyle about doing something special for foster children. “I wasn’t opposed to helping or taking the child for the day to church or to an event, but that’s kind of where I wanted to draw the line. That was my comfort zone.”
Yet after meeting Ariel, currently a fourth grader, he was so taken with her that Kyle changed his mind and decided to adopt. He then went on to adopt Nasir, currently a third grader.
Even though this trend is new, it is possibly the product of an encouraging environment. “Men and women’s roles are no longer as divided in terms of what they’re allowed to do or what they’re not allowed to do,” said Dr. Elissa R. Gross, a clinical psychologist in Cresskill, New Jersey. “So maybe the new generations of men are just feeling more comfortable in the role of a nurturing parent.”
This favorable social environment towards men as parents is also enhanced legally by the courts which have become more favorable to dads. “They’re really focusing on fathers’ rights,” said Dr. Gross of the courts. “Maybe this is a message that people understand that fathers and men in general should be entitled to have more parental rights.”
Organizations such as Children’s Aid and Family Services (CAFS), which run group homes, do not discourage single parents from fostering or adopting children. However, they recognize that it is a challenge to take care of children that come from difficult backgrounds.
“We do not do anything to discourage single parents,” said Elizabeth Mason, Senior Vice President of Planning and Strategic Development at CAFS. “We do make sure, however, that anyone thinking about foster care goes into it with their eyes open. The children in our care have a variety of special needs and most have faced trauma and abuse, and/or have medical or psychiatric challenges. Fostering is a big commitment and can be very challenging, although it is also hugely rewarding.”
Even though single dads are providing a loving home for children, there is still a longing for a maternal figure in the home. “They [the kids] have voiced that they would love to have a mother in the home,” said Kyle. “Children have a unique natural sense of things and I would be the first one to say that I firmly believe that ideally children should be with their families, with their mothers and fathers, and the ideal situation should be a mother and a father in a home.”
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