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Can I share something with you?

Being a parent has been the second best thing I have ever done. The first, of course, was marrying my wife! To be sure, being a parent has made me a much better person, in so many ways.

Yet, the road to being a parent for me took a sad path in the beginning. My first child died of a disease known as Anencephaly, a condition where the brain, scalp, and skull never truly form.

When my wife gave birth to our child, she was in labor for 92 hours before our first daughter was born. When my wife gave birth to our child, the tiny infant died immediately upon reaching oxygen. The next several months saw my wife and I both suffer from overwhelming grief. We both reacted differently with the loss of our first child. Kelly grieved in a healthy fashion, while I did not. I remained in denial for quite some time, in fact for the next two years. I buried myself in my work, refusing to grieve or feel sadness. It was not healthy for either I or for our marriage.

Since that time, my wife has given birth to three healthy children, and we have adopted three more from foster care.

Furthermore, we have been foster parents to dozens of more children, as we have tried to help children in need. As a result of our first child dying, I have come to realize that the gift of children is a precious one, and that the responsibility of raising children is one that is so very important.

foster care

There have been those moments when I have questioned whether or not I was making a difference.

There have been those times when I have grown frustrated with the system, as I have had to stand by and watch some of the children in my home go back to environments and situations which I knew that were not healthy or safe, for that matter. To be sure, I have also watched my wife’s own doubts, and her desire to no longer foster, as her heart had been broken numerous times from the many children she had grown to love, only to see them return to homes where the children were once again placed in jeopardy. It is the same for so many foster parents who have shared their stories with me. I have heard from foster parents who lose sleep each night for weeks and months on end, trying to calm and soothe a baby born addicted to crack, heroin, or meth. I have heard from foster parents who have been yelled at on a daily basis from foster teens who are so emotionally upset by their own experiences that they take it out on their foster parents. I have heard from those who have been told one day they could adopt their foster babies, only to be told another day that the baby would return instead to a biological family member the child had never met. The stories are countless, the stories are heartbreaking, and the stories are never ending. Surely, there is no earthly reason to be a foster parent. So, why do we do it? For many, like my wife, we are answering a call. The call to take care of children who are hurting, who are scared, who are in need.

As a foster parent myself, I want to remind you that being a foster parent will change the world, not just for the child, but for you as well.

What you will do a as a foster parent will truly making a tremendous difference in the lives of children in need. You WILL change the life of a child. You WILL plant a seed in the life of a child in foster care that WILL grow, and WILL bloom. You may not see this transformation while the child is living in your home; this seed may not blossom until much later, but it will blossom if you plant it with love, water it with your tears, and nurture it with your time and compassion.

foster family

Sometimes, we may not be able to save a child from having a horrible and tragic experience before they come to live with us. Yet, we are given the chance, as foster parents, to save them from experiencing other future horrors, and taking them away from dangerous situations. Without a doubt, this is a joy itself.

So, join me on my mission. A mission to recruit 10,000 new foster parents by the year 2019. F10K. America’s foster care system is at a crisis level, as there are not enough foster parents to care for these children in need.

It’s time we change that. It’s time you and I work together to bring hope, to bring healing, and to bring love to children in need. It will be the greatest gift you can give a child, and the greatest gift you can give yourself. Change the world one child at a time. You CAN make a difference. You CAN make the world a better place. Let’s truly bring love to a child in need today.

Originally posted on www.medium.com

John DeGarmo, Ed.D.

Born in 1969, Dr. John DeGarmo has worn many hats throughout his life. Singing and dancing while touring around the world in the international super group, Up With People, serving as a D.J. at four different radio stations on two different continents, working in the professional wrestling industry, teaching English and Drama at the high school level, and working as a media specialist at two different schools, Dr. DeGarmo has had a variety of experiences.

Dr. DeGarmo has a B.A. in History, a Masters in Media Technology, a Masters in Educational Leadership, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Walden University. Dr. DeGarmo wrote his dissertation on Responding to the Needs of Foster Children Face While in Rural Schools. He is the author of several foster care books, including the training book The Foster Parenting Manual: A Practical Guide to Creating a Loving, Safe, and Stable Home, as well as the foster care children’s book A Different Home: A New Foster Child’s Story. Dr. DeGarmo is a dynamic speaker and informative trainer on the foster care system, and travels extensively, meeting with foster parents, child welfare workers, churches, schools, and organizations. He writes regularly for many magazines, and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, several publications, and newsletters, both in the United States and in Europe.

Dr. DeGarmo is married to Dr. Kelly DeGarmo, who hails from Australia, and the two of them have six children, both biological and adoptive. Dr. DeGarmo and his wife are also currently foster parents to three siblings, bringing their household to nine children. Dr. DeGarmo has been a foster parent for dozens of children for over a decade now. He has a passion for foster children, and is driven to bring education and insight into general society about all things foster care.

Dr. DeGarmo and his wife are the recipients of the Up With People Every Day Hero Award for 2015. The two also were honored in 2016 with their city’s Citizens of the Year Award.

Learn more about Dr. DeGarmo at DrJohnDeGarmoFostercare.weebly.com

You can connect with him on:

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