Fatherhood can come in many forms and bring with it many meanings. From the a role model to being a supportive figure in hard times, the role of a father comes with many hats and responsibilities. For some, this role and the responsibilities that come with it, extend beyond biological and step children.
Over the past 24 years, Danny Lewis of Leonard has offered a safe place and home to more than 90 foster children. He has collected information, stories and pictures in a scrapbook to remind him of each of the children he has cared for and has seen countless children he cared for grow up, graduate high school and go on to have families of their own.
“It feels like it gives these kids a jump start on life and it a blessing in their lives,” he said. ” When we started this, I didn’t even really know what fostering was.”
Lewis and his wife started fostering children after being inspired by her parents, who fostered for more than a quarter-century. The couple’s biological children have continued this tradition, with his oldest daughter adopting three children.
Lewis has adopted four children since he started fostering. The first child he adopted, his 24-year-old daughter, was also the first child he fostered. This was followed two years later by her half-brother.
Lewis said fostering can be difficult. The couple primarily foster infants, so Lewis jokes that his family never truly outgrew the late night feedings and diaper changes that accompany with young children. And there was always the chance there would be a late-night call of a child who needed a home.
But Lewis said the toughest part was saying goodbye. As a foster parent, he said he spent close to 19 months with some of these children, and connected with them.
“That’s the toughest part,” he said. “You really had some that have stayed so long that it gets hard to let go.”
Earlier this year, officials with Children’s Protective Services estimated that more than 200 children were in foster care throughout Grayson County.
While Lewis focused primarily on younger children, Derrick Roberts’ two children were five and seven years old when they were adopted into his family. Roberts, who has no biological children, said he has seen families who were torn apart by the inability to have children.
“Early on, we decided that’s not going to be us,” he said. “We decided we would take what God has planned for us, be it children of our own or through adoption.”
The Roberts fostered through a program called “For the One,” named after the parable of the lost sheep. It seeks foster parents for children who might need extra attention. It was there Roberts met his future son, Roland.
Roland, who is African-American, had been separated from his mother; she had lost her parental rights. For nine months, Roberts and his wife fostered Roland before they could officially adopt him.
Soon after, Roberts said his family welcomed their second child when he and his wife adopted their daughter, Lucy. She was 5 at the time and was originally set to be adopted by another family, but the plans fell through suddenly.
“CPS literally got a call at 11 p.m. saying, ‘We don’t want her anymore; come and get her. She will be outside,’” he said.
In both cases, Roberts said it took some time before the children felt comfortable in their new environment, and felt at home.
Roland had been with several families for a short amount of time before moving on to the next home.
“The first week when he came home, he called my wife Mom and me Dad because he called all adults that,” Roberts said.
Roberts said the adoptions afforded him opportunities that aren’t given to biological parents. Both of his children chose their adoptive names as a way of having some say in the matter. In his son’s case, Roland chose to take his mother’s maiden name as his first name in an attempt to work both parents into his name.
“We’ve had them so long that there are times we forget that we adopted them,” he said. “He is my kid and he is the one who God said is my son.”