Shufelt: A father’s love provides comfort to kids in need

Foster parents are constantly coming to the doors of Arizona Helping Hands seeking assistance for boys and girls who are placed in their care.

Dan Shufelt (Arizona Helping Hands)
Dan Shufelt

I love it when I have a few minutes to talk to them and to hear their stories. One recent chat with a foster dad left an indelible image in my mind.

Pedro and his wife have been fostering for just a few months. In that time, they have had three placements, the first of which was for just 24 hours.

Pedro shared how difficult it was, even after just a day to have that youngster leave, especially not even having a chance to say goodbye. Such are the challenges that foster parents open themselves up for, and the risk of hurt that they take on.

Pedro told me of their newest placement. Abandoned and in need, the baby boy is believed to be 18 months old.

He came to the house with no belongings, a vocabulary of only three words, and a world filled with fear and uncertainty. On the day he was placed, Pedro took the day off to be with the baby.

Even at such a young age, children know when their world is upended. Scared and afraid, the baby experiences night terrors, waking up in fear and not being able to sleep.

It was Pedro’s hand that provided the reassurance. He told me he sits by the bed and holds the boy’s hand for a long time until he can fall asleep. It’s that image that stays in my mind. A dad changing his life for a child in need, a dad giving his love knowing full well that he might not have that hand to hold tomorrow.

With the first placement, Pedro and his wife cried when the little boy left their care. They had to take time off from fostering to regroup and gather the courage to try again. This could happen again with their current baby, but in the meantime, they hold hands, love and comfort a wounded little one.

I give thanks for Pedro, his wife and all courageous foster parents.

At Arizona Helping Hands, we loaded up the car to assist with this little boy. The crib, diapers, clothing, building blocks and more will help the family adjust to a new member.

There was no notice this child was coming to them and no time to prepare — that’s why our work is so important.

Pedro told us that he is so grateful for our help, and even more grateful for the welcoming and helpful staff that greets families every time someone walks in the door.

We are here to lend our helping hands in any way we can.

I think of my kids and grandkids. I’m thankful that they have safety, comfort and consistency in their lives. With 14,000 children in foster care in Arizona, there are great needs to be filled in order to aid frightened and hurting children.

Dads like Pedro and foster families such as his, are playing an incredibly important role for boys and girls who desperately need them. I am grateful that our Helping Hands can lend a bit of support, and pray that one little boys’ terrors will ease, thanks to the love and support of a dedicated Dad.

Happy Fathers’ Day to all dads. Whether foster, biological or adopted, the love you share is a truly precious gift.

Editor’s Note: Dan Shufelt is president and CEO of Arizona Helping Hands, the largest provider of basic needs to Arizona’s children in foster care.

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