Dr. John DeGarmo’s Foster Care Tale of Empowerment

The story of Dr. John DeGarmo could fill pages.

I could write about his books, keynote speeches or his worldwide travels as an advocate for foster care.

More interesting, yet, might be the stories of the more than 50 children that his family has fostered in the last 15 years.

But, as I sit down to scribe his story tonight, I’m stuck on one response from our 45 minute conversation.

I innocently asked Dr. DeGarmo, “With 6 kids and after so many foster children, how have you done it?”

To which he replied without hesitation, “Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard.  I’m telling you, when I cry, I weep.  But, all the kids that have come into our home have needed someone to hurt for them.  They needed to be loved like that.  And, that’s what we do – hurt and all.”

I fell silent, reflecting on that statement for a moment.

Instantly, my mind drifted from my pre-planned line of questioning and toward two, divergent emotions – I felt unworthy but empowered.

After a long pause, I spit out the only phrase I could find, “Wow, that is powerful – something I don’t think I could do.”

Yes, I felt immediately unworthy.

As my conversation with Dr. DeGarmo continued, though, I started to feel empowered – now focused on the ability for everyone to provide selfless assistance to kids in need.

That lesson, most assuredly, is the tale of Dr. John DeGarmo to me.

“The numbers are big and there no question more foster parents are needed.” Dr. DeGarmo told me, “That said, though, there are so many ways to help that require a less profound commitment.”

He’s right, the numbers are big – now near 500,000 kids in the foster system.  And, too often, these monumental facts are just too overwhelming – causing many well-meaning potential caregivers to turn away.

Feeling overwhelmed leaves too many people on the sideline, asking, “What could I have done anyway?”

Dr. John DeGarmo’s life (and work) answer that question.

We each can do more than we might think.  We can help foster children by being empowered rather than unworthy when we hear stories like his.

The flames of Dr. DeGarmo’s passion for helping foster kids are fanned by the stories of the foster families he meets during his worldwide keynotes and training sessions.

“I think of so many of the great people and families I get to meet and learn from.  I think about the couple in Texas that fosters chronically ill newborns – rocking the baby to their inevitable death.  And, about the family in California that only fosters older boys who have nowhere else to turn.  These families, and so many more like them, are extraordinary.”

Initially, these stories are heart-breaking – they are.  To help, though, requires us to get through the pain.

Those stories can be examples of triumph and resilience, of endeavoring to do selfless good if we can get past their tragic beginnings.

We’re all worthy.

That is the lesson I learned from Dr. John DeGarmo.

About Dr. John DeGarmo

Born in 1969, leading international foster care expert and consultant 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, working as a media specialist,  director of The Foster Care Institute, and founder of Never Too Late, a residential group home for boys in foster care, 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 new book Faith and Foster Care: How We Impact God’s Kingdom, 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.  He is the director of the Foster Care Institute, and acts as a consultant to foster care agencies and legal agencies across the USA. Dr. John is a dynamic speaker and informative trainer on the foster care system, and travels extensively across the globe, 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 over seas.

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 Good Morning America Ultimate Hero Award, and the Up With People Every Day Hero Award.  The two also were honored with their city’s Citizens of the Year Award.

For more information about Dr. John DeGarmo, visit his website at http://drjohndegarmofostercare.weebly.com/.

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