Barry Farmer was still in high school when he first thought about becoming a foster parent.
“I was 17 years old when I wrote in my journal, ‘I want to adopt a child from foster care,’ ” Barry said.
When he was 20 years old, Barry responded to an ad in the local paper saying “foster parents wanted.” At the time, he was working in a daycare and knew it was his calling to work with youth.
“I’ve never been the type of guy to party,” Barry said. “I wanted a child I could take care of and share experiences with before I got too old.”
The social worker Barry talked with was surprised by his age but impressed by his commitment. She advocated for him, and one year later, he had completed the steps necessary to be licensed as a foster parent.
A surprising first placement
Barry was 21 years old when he received his first foster placement—a 16-year-old boy. The teen was considered a “high-risk placement” but stayed for eight months. Ultimately, however, he was moved to a residence that could address his special needs.
“I hated to see him go, but we have stayed in touch,” said Barry. “From the beginning he called me ‘Dad.’ Seven years later he still does.”
Since that first assignment, Barry has provided short-term, long-term, and respite care to children and adopted three boys: Darrell, 13, Xavier, 11, and Jeremiah, 3. Darrell and Jeremiah came to his home as foster placements; he found Xavier on the AdoptUSKids website.
“I really thought I was done adopting after Xavier. But then Jeremiah came along, and I thought, ‘Well, this is meant to be.’ ”
Following in the footsteps of his role models
Barry attributes his passion for helping children to the adults who cared for him when he was growing up: the grandparents who raised him and a third-grade teacher, Mrs. Simms-Morton, who took him under her wing.
“My grandparents taught me to work hard and strive for more. Mrs. Simms-Morton exposed me to a bigger world and encouraged me to follow my dreams,” Barry said. “Most of all, from these and other people I learned that giving to others is more rewarding than taking for yourself.”
The future of the Farmer family?
Barry decided that after he completed his third adoption he would temporarily close his foster home.
“It’s time for me to step back and enjoy my sons. Being a foster family can be demanding and stressful at times. I’m ready to step away from that for a while and focus on my sons’ futures. They have made so much progress that I want to enjoy it with them. Also, I have set a few goals for myself that I would like to accomplish before opening my home to more who are in need.”
Reflecting on his years of parenting to offer advice to other families, Barry says that it is all about being compassionate, managing expectations, and working hard.
“Not every day is full of sunshine and rainbows. But if you work at it with understanding and compassion, your good days will far outweigh the bad ones.
“Foster care adoption is an amazing process. You take complete strangers, put them in a home, and if you’re lucky, something beautiful—a family—will grow.”