Barry Farmer didn’t grow up in a conventional home with a mom and a dad, but that experience molded him to become the outstanding man he is today—a father to three boys.
When Barry was just a toddler, he and his three sisters went into “kinship care,” a form of foster care where relatives or friends take care of someone’s children when their parents can’t.
Back then, little Barry went from home to home, living with friends of his parents. The setup wasn’t stable, but he had no choice. He went on to live with his aunt for a while, then moved into a foster home.
When he turned four, Barry moved in with his grandmother, who he just met. In that home, he had neighborhood friends, a good school, and a sense of community. It was the kind of stability that a child like him needed.
Although Barry lost his parents, he gained tremendous support from his grandmother and from other people. That experience inspired him to become a foster parent himself.
When he was 20 years old, Barry spotted an ad about becoming a foster parent and applied. The director of programs was surprised upon learning how young he was, but she took a chance and granted him his foster parent license.
After a year, Barry got his first case. A boy who was around the age of 16 moved into his home in Richmond, Virginia. Six months later, that boy moved out, and he received another case—a 7-year-old boy named Jaxon.
Barry and the agency didn’t know that Jaxon was white, so it came as a shock to him when they met. He had never worked with white children before, so he didn’t know what to expect.
“This child, in my head, is Black,” he recalled. “When I got there, he was just the whitest white child that I ever worked with … I thought, ‘Wow this is going to be interesting.’ Because I have no clue what I am doing.”
Barry soon learned that he had nothing to worry about.
“He was so loving and caring,” he said. “He just wanted some hugs and to call me dad.”
They formed such a good relationship that when Jaxon moved out and was placed with his adoptive family, the boy ended up coming back to him.
They both missed each other, so Barry and Jaxon decided to make things permanent.
Barry was just 22 at the time, and he thought that social workers would have a problem with the adoption, but they didn’t. They knew Jaxon had everything he needed in Barry’s loving home.
However, the boy wanted one more thing—a little brother.
Although he had no intention of adopting another child, Barry told Jaxon that he would think about it. Someone showed him a website of foster kids who needed a family, and that’s when he found 8-year-old Xavier.
The boy moved in with him and Jaxon, and Barry officially adopted him when he was 11.
Barry’s family continued to grow when he took in Jeremiah, a 4-year-old in need of respite placement. His big brothers welcomed him with open arms, and Barry eventually adopted Jeremiah when he turned 5.
“Becoming a foster parent was like a tribute to my grandmother because I could never pay her back, but I was definitely able to pay it forward,” he said.
Barry, now 34, is enjoying life with Jaxon, who is now 19, Xavier, 17, and Jeremiah, 11. The family enjoys going on mini road trips on the East Coast, visiting amusement parks, exploring new cities, and going to the beach.
Barry hopes that other parents would consider fostering or adoption.
“Single parenting is not wrong. It is very doable with a village,” he said. “I would encourage people to not only becoming licensed foster parents but to become adoptive parents.”
Click on the video below to learn more about Barry and his three sons.
Updated 10/06/2021: (Barry Farmer shares a reflection about his family)
“What happens when love makes a family? With time, you are able to create an authentic family. Many look at my sons and think they are biologically related but they are only related by the same circumstances.
As their father, I feel like I can understand them better because I’ve experienced the same circumstances as well as a Former Foster Youth. Our children in care need individuals who are willing to guide them through their childhood and reconstruct their lives.
Let’s remember, children in FosterCare didn’t ask for the life they are being subjected to, they didn’t ask for the traumatic situations they’ve experienced. Let’s do our best to support them during the most vulnerable time of their lives.
Foster youth are a population that longs for normalcy in a family setting and at times they are not sure what the looks like, what it feels like or what it requires on their part. They need families just like yours to show them, to encourage, to embrace and acknowledge them as someone who matters.
Every child deserves a permanent home and a loving family. But did you know? More than 120,000 children in foster care are waiting to be adopted.