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Carlos* was watching the news one evening when an image of a Syrian refugee boy who had drowned at sea filled the screen. As an immigrant himself, he immediately knew he wanted to do something to help the millions of people fleeing war and violence.
Carlos migrated from Cuba to the United States with his family when he was not much older than the boy in the photo and has always been fiercely proud of his immigrant identity. His desire to help others was inherited; after he left home, his mother began fostering immigrant children who had traveled to the U.S. without a guardian.
He decided in that moment to follow in her footsteps. Months later, he received his first foster care placement: a Guatemalan boy fleeing violence in his home country. Carlos didn’t know then, but the boy would stay for two years—and in that time, Carlos would welcome nine other foster children into his home.
While he was not from Central America himself, Carlos had traveled throughout the region in his early adulthood. His experiences there and his fluency in Spanish helped him connect to the children and teens he fostered, and when he didn’t know something, they were always happy to show him YouTube videos about the history and culture of their home countries.
Though he had never had children, Carlos treated his foster children as his own—encouraging them to do well in school and helping them study for tests. He took them to doctor’s appointments and to church on Sundays, celebrated birthdays and holidays with them, taught them how to cook, went for long bike rides around the lake, and even took several of the children on a road trip to visit his family in Miami.
Carlos considers fostering to be the most important and impactful decision he’s ever made. He and his husband recently bought a home in Massachusetts, and they hope to adopt soon. Thanks to the help of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service network, particularly Ascentria Care Alliance, he knows what it’s like to be a dad—and can’t wait to welcome a child into his home again.
*Name has been changed.
Learn more about LIRS’s foster care program for immigrant and refugee youth: lirs.org/foster-care-services/