May holds a special significance; it is a month dedicated to bringing awareness to foster care, a system that remains the only home for thousands of children across the United States. This month, we shine a light on a heartwarming story of hope and love, a story woven around the life of Joe Toles.
Joe Toles, a man whose life has been inextricably bound with foster care, stands as a beacon of light in an often overlooked demographic. A former foster child himself, Toles has now assumed the role of a father for those at risk of aging out of the system.
“My mission, my purpose, is to help,” Toles, who currently resides in Alabama, declared.
His journey to fatherhood wasn’t a conventional one, instead it wound through the challenging path of foster care. A New York native, Toles grew up in foster homes and aged out of the system. He found an unlikely father figure in his track coach.
“He saw something in me that nobody else did, and he made me believe it,” recalled Toles, reflecting on the impact of his coach.
According to the National Foster Youth Institute, annually, more than 23,000 children reach the age limit for staying in the U.S. foster care system, leading to a harsh reality where approximately 20% face homelessness. This alarming data underscores the critical necessity for assistance and intervention for these vulnerable children.
Toles, after graduating from Auburn University, made it his mission to adopt children at risk of aging out of the system.
“I am of the mindset that everything that happened to me in life was in preparation for me to be the best who I could be,” he stated, underlining the inspirational perspective that has driven his journey.
Toles is now the proud father of eight adopted boys. Xavier, his first adopted son, became a part of his family when he was 18 years old.
Each of Toles’ sons has discovered their own version of success. They have made strides in education and athletics, and even entered competitive job training programs, such as the one offered at Disney World.
“I had to get used to someone seeing me, telling me, ‘It’s okay to have emotions and express yourself,” said Jhon Fernandez, one of Toles’ sons.
In opening his heart and his home, Toles gave his boys the invaluable gift of family.
“They’re my kids, it’s worth it, because you fall in love,” Toles affirmed, underlining the emotional bond that extends beyond biology.
This May, as we spotlight foster care, let’s celebrate the remarkable men and women, like Joe Toles, who step up to make a difference. Let’s remember the power of love and the resilience of the human spirit, as illustrated so vividly in the journey of this father, and his chosen family.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” – James 1:27 (NIV)