This Father’s Day, Normalize “Foster Dad”

June 17, 2017

Sadly, Kyle Forti, a Colorado foster dad, died in a helicopter crash in Kenya. His wife Hope said "Kyle was not primarily a political strategist or adviser. He was primarily a husband and father, as so many of you have written. He wanted that to be his primary identity."

By Kyle Forti

For the fun of it, I often launch into that “tell me a little about yourself” part of a business lunch, networking event or high-dollar client pitch with “Well, I’m a foster dad!”

I receive surprised, confused faces because people just assume I’d talk about my probably-boring career choice, millennial side hustle or how, because I live in Colorado, I’m inherently in love with skiing (I absolutely am, by the way).

Embracing the identity of “Foster Dad” can seem like completely uncharted territory sometimes. I feel it. As a 27-year-old business owner, entrepreneur and community lover, I know approximately zero guys “like me” doing foster care — let alone embracing it as inherent part of who they are and why they do what they do. 

And that’s not to shame anyone or make myself out to be overly special or important. The reality is it’s simply not normal to be a foster dad or to talk about it to others in normal non-“awww bless your heart” kinds of ways.

But here’s the other reality I’ve seen every single day being involved as a foster dad the last few years: kids in foster care are desperate for dads who just show up. The vast majority of kids in the system have had a dad or father-type-figure (the gender ratios aren’t good, guys) who have, at least temporarily, left them victims of things like violence, abuse, crime, drug addition, absence or neglect. 

Forget being Super Dad or having to trade in your entire existence for some ultra-altruistic lifestyle. You can be a “normal dude” and commit to embracing fatherhood through foster care. 

1. Realize that you can definitely be a #fosterdad 

Fathering through foster care doesn’t mean anything other than that you’re willing to open up your home to a kid who desperately needs one for a while. As I said, I’m a 27-year-old who just wrapped up a placement with a 12-year-old, which puts me at about 15 and Pregnant, but that’s ok! — and that's also the beauty of foster care. Before that placement I had a 10-DAY-old.

Don’t say you don’t have time or you could never figure out how to make it work. I’m a business owner, volunteer with CASA, sit on way too many community boards doing phenomenal work and try to 50/50 parent with my wife. Just make being a foster dad an inherent part of your everyday life, social setting and overall day-to-day normalcy; as opposed to being a foster dad changing all of that for you as a guy.

And it’s for everyone: you can be a single foster dad, living with your brother/sister/friend or with your partner.

2. Kill all those archaic vibes as a #fosterdad 

There’s nothing like being an “all in” foster dad that will work to end the stereotype that dads in general always take a secondary, less supportive parenting role. 

Give 100 percent alongside your partner. 

Be creative and cool about it. 

Make competency cool.

Educate yourself in trauma care.

Shed the archaic dopey dad stereotypes. 

3. Build some not-weird #fosterdad community 

There are SO many great resources and community-type groups that shout “foster mom.” I love them. I’m thinking about starting a blog called “Mom Blog, By A Dad.” 

Sadly the “foster parent” community doesn’t usually really mean foster dad. Together, it can evolve from being seen just as a female/mom thing, where dads just tag along. Write, share, grab some drinks and just swap stories. 

This Father’s Day, let’s all help progress fatherhood past only meaning another new tie and our prized “#1 Dad” mug. 

Perception is reality: embrace fatherhood through foster care and it’ll go a long way to normalizing “foster dad” among family and friends, at our work places and in our communities as a whole. 

Perhaps even better yet, go love a kid in need and change their perception of “foster dad” too. Normalize love, safety and stability for them through fatherhood.

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