For Joe Toles, the track to parenthood runs directly through foster care.
“My goal, my purpose, is to help,” Toles told CBS News.
Toles grew up in foster homes and aged out of the system. Then, he finds a father figure in his track coach.
“He saw something in me that no one else did, and he believed in me,” said Toles, who is from New York City but now lives in Alabama.
More than 23,000 children move out of the US foster care system each year, and about 20% end up homeless, according to numbers from the National Foster Youth Institute. State laws vary when a foster child ages out of the system. In some states, once a foster child turns 18, the foster care agency must obtain the child’s written consent to remain in care, which they can do until they turn 21.
So, after graduating from Auburn University, Toles made it her goal to adopt.
“I’m in the mindset that everything that’s happened to me in life has been geared towards the best of me,” Toles said.
He adopted eight boys, all at risk of aging out of the system. Toles’ first son, Xavier, was adopted at age 18.
“It was kind of like, I didn’t need my parents all these years,” Xavier said. “Why do I need one now?”
Each of his sons discovered their own version of success, and some had children of their own. They excelled in academics and athletics, and one entered a competitive job training program at Disney World.
“I had to get used to seeing me say, ‘It’s okay to have emotions and express yourself,'” said John Fernandez, Toles’ son.
Toles gave his sons family gifts.
“They’re my kids, it’s worth it, because you’re in love,” Toles said.