From 1 Child to 15: A Single Father’s Journey to Foster Care Adoption

Aug 14, 2018 11:00 AM ET

This guest blog is written by Dan Mercer, an adoptive father whose youngest son, Samuel was adopted through the Foundation’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program.

I am a single parent to 15 children and I am not the biological father to any of them. Thirty years ago, I took what I thought was just a temporary job as the chaplain to the Maine Youth Center, then Maine's only youth correctional facility. I was young, energetic and filled with aspirations of making a big difference in the world. This temporary job turned into a lifelong passion for wanting to help kids on the "edge” as well as those in need. I soon learned how challenging it is to help this population of kids. Many of them grew up in a cycle of violence, addiction and poverty. One day my home was burglarized and my car was stolen by a youth from the prison. I knew then that I needed to decide: I had to either back away or get more involved. That was the week I decided to become a foster parent and it has been one the best decisions of my life despite its many challenges. Being a parent is a tough job, but doing it alone has its own challenges, then factor in the immense needs and trauma that my kids are dealing with and things got interesting.

I had a passion to help children who had gotten off path. Some of the children I took in made the wrong choice and had been incarcerated. It’s hard to make the right choices in life when no one ever taught you how to do that. I wanted to be the change in their life. Of my 15 children, nine of them had spent time in jail. My oldest son is 43, my youngest is 17. I have 18 grandchildren and two great grandchildren. I believe I am raising my last son, but my family continues to expand.

Samuel, my youngest son, is now 17. He was born in Ethiopia and was brought to the United States as part of an international adoption that dissolved after he arrived. He was placed in the foster care system. Samuel has one leg and some special needs that come along with that. He was bounced from house to house and shelter to shelter. When he turned 16 he thought his time had passed to be adopted. Samuel’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiter started digging and looked nationwide for someone who would be a good parent to Samuel. That’s when she found me. I was living in Maine and Samuel was in Colorado, but his WWK recruiter Janine made our adoption happen.

Sam is now the manager of the local football team, in the process of winning the state championship here in Maine. He is thriving in his new environment and we are going through the process of becoming father and son, which never happens overnight, but starts with a commitment from both individuals. Sam has already won my heart and I am so thankful for the hard work of his adoption team.

Sam hopes to go to a culinary college after graduation and is already quite the cook. This summer we plan on journeying to Ethiopia as part of his graduation present, which will be a big adventure for the both of us. There is so much to look forward to and we are both excited about the year ahead. But no matter where life leads, we have turned this page together and with the help of so many. 

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has one mission: to dramatically increase the number of adoptions from foster care. To learn more about our mission and to support our unending commitment to finding a family for every child, visit