Barry Farmer knew he wanted to be a father, but never expected his family to turn out like this.
“I look in the mirror all the time, and if you would have told me 10 years ago that this would happen, I wouldn’t believe you,” the 30-year-old Richmond, Va., man told WTVR.
Farmer, a single dad, became a foster parent to his first son eight years ago, when Farmer was only 21. The boy, named Jaxon, was 8 years old when Farmer decided to adopt, he told Inside Edition.
“Personally, I grew up in kinship care, which is another form of foster care. My grandmother raised me,” Farmer told the site. “Her doing that for me, there was no way I could actually pay her back so I decided it’d be a good way to pay it forward.”
Kinship care is a type of foster care where a child is cared for by a close relative or other adult, such as a godparent, if biological parents cannot do so. Foster parents, on the other hand, are usually unrelated to the children they care for.
Farmer began thinking about adopting again over the next few years, and started looking through the Adopt U.S. Kids website, according to WTVR. That’s where he found his second son, Xavier, 15, whom he adopted in 2015, according to Inside Edition. Just a year later, Farmer added a third son to his family by adopting 8-year-old Jeremiah, he told the site.
He knows his sons don’t look like him - they’re all white, and Farmer is black. But Farmer pays no mind to their differences in skin color.
“It's a typical family, Farmer told ABC 7 in 2016. “We may not look alike, but it's a typical family. In this day in time when it comes to family, and seeing color or seeing unity and belonging, and that's what I was hoping to accomplish with my family anyway.”
Farmer’s story comes amid amid a crisis in foster care. Several states, such as Georgia, are facing critical shortages of foster parents, leaving those children more at risk of falling through the cracks and becoming ensnared in things like sex trafficking, according to John Degarmo of the Foster Care Institute. The ongoing opioid crisis is also straining the foster system, as a blooming of addictions and overdoses have pushed more and more children into foster care, reported The New York Times.
And as those children get older, such as around the ages of Farmer’s children, people are less and less likely to adopt them, according to reporting from the Deseret News.
Farmer told WTVR people need to overcome their notions about adopting older children.
“There’s no reason to be afraid of our foster children who are waiting to be adopted,” Farmer told the station. “Fatherhood has brought me lots of joy. I can’t imagine my sons not being with me.”