"I've come a long way in my life"

A father talks about how his own experience in foster care make him a better parent.

October 11, 2017

Urie family
"I can empathize with my children in a genuine way." (Photo credit: Annette Colombini)

Andrew Urie spent the first seven years of his life in foster care. Even while he was being moved among the homes of foster parents and family members, Andrew dreamed of growing up and adopting children of his own.

When Andrew was 32 years old and working as a children’s mental health counselor, he became a foster parent. He adopted two boys who are now 10 and 12 years old.

We talked with Andrew about how he and his boys have grown during their seven years as a family.

How did your experience in foster care shape you as a parent?

Being able to talk with my boys about my experiences in foster care and then being adopted when I was about the same age as they were opens up a lot of dialogue. When my kids say they are missing their mom or are feeling frustrated, I can say that I remember feeling that way. My experiences allow me to empathize with my kids in a genuine way that most parents can’t.

I am also able to be a role model that they can relate to. When my boys do something wrong, like all kids do sometimes, I can reassure them that it is not the end of the world. I can truly say: “Look what happened to me. I grew up and learned from my mistakes.”

How has being a parent changed you?

I had a lot of anger issues growing up, and I thought I had overcome them through therapy. But foster-adopting my kids brought up a lot of issues I hadn't realized I was dealing with. As a parent, I returned to seeing a counselor and it helped me tremendously.

Also, my oldest boy taught me how to be affectionate. Partially because of my experiences growing up, I was not someone who liked people hugging me or touching me. But he was so darned cute and affectionate. Of course, now that he’s 12, I can’t show affection anymore!

What have been your biggest challenges?

Knowing when and what kind of conversations to have with my kids about their birth families. My oldest doesn’t remember the things that happened that brought him into care, so he idealizes his mother and doesn’t understand why he can’t be with her and his siblings, who still live with her. It’s a fine line between sharing enough information to satisfy their interest but not so much that it is distressing.

You were young when you decided to adopt and are a single parent. Where have you found support?

We live in a small community and are very involved in community groups and school activities. Since my oldest was six years old, he’s been going to the Boys & Girls Club. They are like family to us. I don’t know what we’d do without them. When I’m feeling crazy and not sure how to deal with something one of the boys is doing, I go there and talk with their staff about it. They like to tell me it will only get worse—because I haven’t even hit the teen years yet!

What are your favorite things to do as a family?

My younger boy loves sports. I’m there at every single game. I’ve never missed one. My older boy loves cooking and volunteering. He’s always signing me up for stuff or I am helping him. He did a fundraiser to buy a piece of playground equipment at the Boys & Girls Club when he was eight or nine. It’s sitting out on the playground, and now it’s so fun to watch kids playing on it and know that your kid helped raise money to get that equipment there.

What are you most proud of?

I've come a long way in my life, and my children are the joy of my life. I love them to pieces. Being able to watch them grow into young men makes me feel proud—and lucky.


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