Trauma Informed Classroom

My first two years as a foster parent

ADHD My first two years as a foster parent

Table of Contents

Setting the Foundation to Become Faris's Foster Parent

My stomach turned upside down when his twelve-year-old self told me, “I had to steal. You don’t know what it’s like to be starving, have no money, and no one to take care of you.” When I was asked by his father to become his temporary guardian, I was honored to become his foster parent. I knew as a recently separated single-dad that taking guardianship as a foster parent of a kid could definitely create some havoc in my life. However, I felt if I didn’t, this kid could very well die and I would never forgive myself if that happened. As a teacher, I felt I could teach and model what life should be. As we moved forward on this journey, I could never imagine how much he would teach me – more than either of my degrees and more than any other person in my adult life.

This amazing journey begins Halloween of 2016 at a Boston Market in San Jose when his father asked, “Can you take care of him for a little while? He deserves better.” After being part of a Child and Family Services meeting months prior, I was appointed an emergency adult caregiver so I didn’t hesitate to say, “Yes!” I listened to his father’s life story; he told of struggles as a refugee and with a drug and alcohol addiction. His father told me he would pay me $300 per month and he would begin by paying me $20 to go get him clothes for that evening. With the clothes on his back, the foster parent journey begins. As we left Boston Market, the first thing Faris said was, “You know my dad will never pay you and this will be forever. I want this to be forever.” I replied, “I’m good with that.” He asked for my phone on the drive to Target and took some silly, very memorable, and priceless photos.

We purchased some basics at Target including a robe that doubled as a Halloween costume that evening. I wanted to spoil him, but I couldn’t since I was on a tight budget after starting over on my own several months prior. After returning home, the boys went to play some basketball and I prepared the house and trundle bed for … – well, I didn’t know if he was going to be a house guest or a permanent resident.  What I had just done finally set in; I wondered, “What the heck am I doing being a foster parent?” I went and summoned the boys at sundown so they could prepare to go trick-or-treating. Soon after their door-to-door venture to get candy, day one of our journey was complete. 

Faris woke up the next morning and promptly woke me up and said, “I think that’s the first time I slept for real in my entire life.” I inquired for clarification, “What do you mean?” He responded, “I didn’t have to worry about bad things happening in the night… I guess maybe, I feel safe here.” I personally suffer from insomnia and have trouble sleeping, but I couldn’t quite grasp what he was talking about. He was sleeping on a very narrow trundle mattress and I had been concerned it would be uncomfortable, but he seemed grateful and happy so all was well. He continued to wake up each morning happy, healthy, and inquisitive as to what was going to happen each day. The next few months would be filled with joyous holidays plus fear and uncertainty.

As a very humble person, I didn’t share with too many people what had happened. I shared Faris’s new living arrangement with my family, most of whom thought I was in over my head, and my best friend, who was completely supportive. Since I was receiving no financial support – as predicted – and the financial struggle was real, I decided to post a story to GoFundMe to raise some money for more household items and Christmas presents. To my surprise, the (now deleted) GoFundMe campaign went viral raising several thousand dollars.

ADHD My first two years as a foster parent

The Holidays

I was determined we would celebrate the Christmas holiday with family. So we packed up the car and headed to Southern California where most of my family lived. With little contact from Faris’s parents, it became increasingly clear that he was becoming part of my family. During the festive celebrations, I found myself referring to Faris as my kid. While this wasn’t legally the case as I was just a temporary guardian or foster parent, he quickly was finding a way deep in my heart. He referred to my son as his brother and my son reciprocated. On the drive from Northern California to Southern California, Faris revealed to me, “I’ve never celebrated Christmas. I’m not sure if it is because my father is Muslim or if he just didn’t have the money.” I could not even relate or know what to say. I thought, “How could this be? Is he lying?”

Christmas happened and my family was troopers. They all had gifts for Faris just as if he was my son. He followed me and my son around house to house, meal to meal, celebrating and doing his best to not feel like an intruder or “just a foster kid.” He definitely enjoyed the gifts, but he asked the million-dollar question, “Is this what having a family feels like?” With some clarifying questions, it turns out that other than his mother and father, he didn’t remember spending too much time with family except for a brief time when his grandfather and step-grandmother fostered him.

It was so strange to me, I felt as if Faris had always been part of my family. He was infectiously happy and I felt important as an integral part of his life as his foster parent. I wanted life to settle down for me in 2017, including helping Faris acclimate to a more stable life. Once Faris opened up about his past, my heart sunk. During our many discussions, he expressed his desire to never publicly say anything that disparaged his mother or father, especially if it may result in them being prosecuted. So as I continue this story, those wishes will be respected. Faris continued to lay it on heavy and I did my best to absorb all of what he had to say. I encouraged him to see a counselor, but he refused saying, “I don’t trust counselors. I only want to tell you.” So I continued to listen and oftentimes found myself in awe. Faris, my son Elijah and I continued as a family throughout the first part of 2017. It became very clear to me that Faris had been through a lot – more than anyone could ever imagine.

A New Year Brings More

I asked him to take an ACE (adverse childhood experience) evaluation online. When he scored 9 out of 10 and promised me he answered the questions honestly (which after many more conversations I determined that he had), I became increasingly concerned about Faris’s long-term well-being. After Faris had an ugly phone conversation with his father, Faris came to me and said, “He (referring to his father) can no longer be in charge of this (his living situation). You need to adopt me or something. I can’t – just can’t keep going worrying that he will come to take me away.” As our current arrangement stood, Faris’s father had full control of where Faris lived and could decide at any point to resume caring for Faris. Based on my observations and what Faris conveyed to me, I put him in touch with LACY (Legal Advocates for Children & Youth).

As it turns out, LACY was familiar with Faris and had helped him with placements in the past. Within a month or so, they had formed a legal team for an initial consultation for Faris. They consulted with him and eventually brought me onboard with an invitation to be his court-appointed legal guardian. They explained the process to Faris and I and scheduled a time on their calendar to start the process. Guardianship was advised because he and I would possibly receive financial support and it would be best for his future and make me more or less a permanent foster parent. We trusted the legal experts’ opinions and moved forward with the advice. I brought Faris back to their office and he officially hired them to represent him (which they did so at no cost). 

Things seemed to be moving along and getting better for all of us. We were all ready for a reboot this summer as we prepared for new chapters in our lives. I was starting a new teaching assignment and adapting to single-life with teenage kids, Elijah was learning how to shuffle between two homes (his mother and I had shared custody) and remain a good student, and Faris was about to start high school with a sense of stability lingering.

Diabetes Join His Life Forever

Towards the end of summer, everything came to a screeching halt when Faris told me, “Roger, I think I’m dying. Something is really wrong.” At first, I just dismissed it as him growing up and puberty. He continued to lack energy (which for hyper Faris this was very unusual) and it was hard to ignore. I became alarmed when I went to clean urine off the bathroom floor (he was having trouble aiming) and it was like syrup. I researched how to take him to a doctor covered by Medi-Cal and we went to see her. She too dismissed Faris’s problems as pubescent growth but decided to order blood tests including a blood glucose test because of my concern of diabetes due to the sugary urine. The next morning I received an urgent message from his doctor, “Take Faris to the emergency room now! Tell them his blood glucose is 1400. He is likely moments away from going into a coma.” The next thing I knew, Faris’s life was about to change forever.

I have been scared and worried before, but never so much when at the ER they got Faris in within minutes claiming it was a life-threatening ailment. The hospital staff was excellent at keeping me informed and helping Faris be as comfortable as possible. The doctors broke the news to us that their tests revealed that Faris was type one diabetic and he would have to take insulin shots for his entire life. I was very concerned for Faris’s mental health, as were the doctors. When I asked Faris if he genuinely understood what his condition entailed, he said, “I’ve got this. I’ve been through a lot worse. I’m just glad you were taking care of me because otherwise, I’d be dead.” We spent about a week in the hospital while the doctors trained both of us on proper diabetic care. They trained me in emergency response and at what threshold to seek emergency assistance. Faris notified his attorneys of his newly diagnosed condition. They immediately filed for an emergency custody order so I was able to make future medical decisions and they moved up his guardianship case to a sooner date. Life continued on, Faris started high school and we attended multiple court hearings in regards to guardianship.

Guardianship on the Horizon

As the final guardianship hearing moved closer, Faris expressed that he wanted braces. We had discussed that he should post a GoFundMe story to see if the community would support him in fixing his smile by offsetting the cost of him getting braces. Our community came through again for him. Soon after raising the entire cost of his braces, we had our final guardianship hearing.

The first week of November 2017 the probate court issued their final order – I was to be Faris’s legal guardian. This gave me all parental rights and decision-making as it pertained to Faris. He was thrilled that he now had a “forever” home. I started the application process to get financial support to care for Faris and took Faris to our favorite orthodontist, Dr. Tran of Braces 2000. He had done an excellent job on my son’s braces and he had also provided encouragement and financial support for Faris throughout our journey.

Getting Used to Diabetes and Braces

Faris, Elijah and I pressed on and had for the most part a stable rest of the school year. I found myself calling in sick to work due to many diabetic interventions for Faris, oftentimes he would go low in the night which I was told could kill him. He wore this cool little device made by Dexcom called a continuous glucose monitor. So when he presented symptoms of hypoglycemia, a potentially fatal condition, it would set off alarms and wake me up to intervene. Faris slept like a rock and was unphased by the alarms so it was up to me to respond. Sometimes this would occur multiple times during the night. The fatigue made it impossible to go teach a class of 25 kindergarteners the next day. It took a toll on my reputation for being reliable at work and I got the feeling the boss was not pleased. But Faris made it through 9th grade, Elijah made it through 11th grade and I finished my school year of teaching.

Making a Move

For summer, some vacations were on the horizon for us. But now that the budget is not so tight because I was getting financial assistance from the county to care for Faris, we decided to move to a much larger apartment. We planned to move within the same apartment complex but to a much larger apartment. This way, the boys would have a large bedroom instead of sharing the living room, and we would have a dedicated living room space. We went from a small one-bedroom apartment to a large three-story, townhouse with two bedrooms. Just before the move, we enjoyed a family vacation with our family in Southern California. Afterward, we returned home to move into our new apartment before the school year began.

After multiple discussions with my employer, I decided to resign from my job. A few weeks later, I was hired to teach at Faris’s high school. Both Elijah and Faris started the year off strong; Elijah as a senior in high school and Faris as a 10th grader.

During this time, Faris’s aunt living in France discovered that Faris was in my care. Initially, she was disturbed that her nephew was not living with his parents, but once learning of his story, she became supportive and interested in helping Faris find success. After being shuffled around among multiple foster families and family members all of his life, I observed that Faris struggled with attachment and trusting that anyone is permanent in his life. I’ve always seen him approach relationships as if people are disposable. I have to admit this scares me greatly in that he very well could dispose of me someday. At this point, I raised and treated Faris like he was my son and it would be heartbreaking if he just disappeared. I was determined to connect him with this known family member who seemed stable and healthy. We did not have much from Faris’s past, but his aunt happened upon a photo album and shared with us some amazing childhood memories.

Childhood Memories

Seeing these photos made me realize that Faris’s contagious and infectious smile was always present. When he was with me, he always seemed happy. Even when the doctor broke the news to him that he was going to have to take insulin shots forever, he still smiled. Knowing Faris’s situation before and after these photos, made me realize how positive of a person Faris must be. These situations were beyond his control and also beyond belief, and still, this young boy brought genuine smiles to the camera. He never ceased to amaze me. We pressed on and he was unquestionably a member of my family now.

Europe Here We Come!

I had a spectacular experience teaching at Faris’s high school. Just like that, the 2018-2019 school year was over and we found ourselves at another summer break. In February, I started planning a trip to Europe. I had never been to Europe, but I had friends that lived in Germany and had a vacation house in Spain. On top of that, I felt it was a great opportunity for Faris to meet his aunt. As an avid traveler, I had taken the boys on many trips as a family but never left the United States. We spent 26 days and saw seven countries on this trip of a lifetime; United States, Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Vatican City, Italy, and Czech Republic.

Part 2????

Avatar of Roger Flowers
Roger Flowers
Roger L. Flowers is an education consultant with a diverse background. He specializes in helping teachers and schools in the process of creating trauma-informed classrooms. Hailing from Southern California, Roger is a long-time foster parent. He also has extensive teaching experience, which led him to work with students of various levels over many years. He has been helping his peers in the education industry to build better classrooms for their students. Roger strives to make a real difference with his work.


  1. Roger,
    Thank you for helping Farris and for sharing his/your story. It is inspirational. Thank you for being there for Farris. I am a retired 1st grade teacher and Susumu’s sister.

  2. I’m the principal of the high school Faris attended for all four years. I’m also the guy that hired Roger to teach at our school for a long-term sub assignment! Our school community benefited from both of them being with us – for Faris’s good nature and resilience, and for Roger’s similarly good nature and humility. The story of Roger, Elijah, and Faris is an inspiring one.

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