This Doctor and His Family Have Taken in Over 50 Foster Children
As part of our ongoing Father’s Day series celebrating fatherhood, Your Daily Dish is featuring amazing stories that highlight the special bond between dads and their children.
Can you imagine having a hand in raising 50 children? Dr. John DeGarmo doesn’t have to imagine it — he’s lived it.
DeGarmo, the director of the Foster Care Institute, and his wife have brought 50 foster children into their home over the years, raising them alongside their three biological children. According to DeGarmo, the impetus for becoming foster parents came from a heartbreaking tragedy.
“It was after the death of our first child, from a condition known as Anencephaly, that we moved back to America from Australia, where my wife is from,” he wrote to Your Daily Dish. “Years later, with three healthy children at that time, I was teaching in a rural high school in Georgia. I had noticed that many of my students were experiencing challenges with behaviors, with academics, and with attendance issues, with much of this due to family environments. Indeed, I truly discovered that it started in the home, so to speak.”
At this point, DeGarmo and his wife decided to help these children by becoming foster parents.
“Since then, we have adopted three children from foster care, and have cared for over 50 children in our home,” he wrote to Your Daily Dish. “In our family, there are no labels. There is no biological child, no adopted child, no foster child, no homeless child. They are all our children, and we love them equally.”
Working with Foster children has been life-changing work for the DeGarmos, with thousands of lasting memories created. However, when asked, John DeGarmo was able to remember one specific incident that crystallized how important the work was.
“The one that stands out is when the 4-year-old child, who had never spoken a single word while living with us for 6 months, finally spoke the day he left our home, to be returned to his biological mother,” he wrote to Your Daily Dish. “As I placed him in the car seat, he looked at my wife, who was standing near the car, and said ‘I love you, Mommy.’ His first four words he had spoken. As my wife burst into tears, I realized that what we did as foster parents truly did make a difference.”
John DeGarmo as a Writer
DeGarmo has translated his family’s work into a writing career. He wrote several books including Love and Mayhem: One Big Family’s Uplifting Story of Fostering and Adoption.
“After completing my doctoral dissertation on foster care related issues, I found I loved writing,” he wrote to Your Daily Dish. “My first book, Fostering Love: One Foster Parent’s Journey, I wrote as I wanted to share with the general public what foster parenting was really like, and how all people can care for children in foster care in some way. I continue to write to bring awareness to foster care, and to shine the light on children in foster care.”
The amount of foster children that the DeGarmos have taken in is admirable. However, it’s relatively small in the grand scheme of children in foster care. According to ChildrensRights.org, over 670,000 children spent time in foster care in 2015, with there being 428,000 in various foster homes on any given day.
John DeGarmo has some advice for foster parents.
“To be sure, foster parenting can be challenging,” he wrote to Your Daily Dish. “I often hear from people that say to me, ‘Dr. John, I can ‘t do what you do. It would hurt too much to give the kids back.’ I reply, ‘That’s how it is supposed to be. Our hearts ARE supposed to break.’ For you see, children in foster care do need stability and security. Yet, what they need the most is unconditional love. They need us, as foster parents, to love them with all of our hearts. We might be the first people who have ever loved them in a healthy fashion.”
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