Photo courtesy of Anastasia Arocho Photography
Steven Arauz, a Central Florida elementary school teacher, is one of a tiny but growing number of single men in the United States who are adopting children from foster care. Mr. Arauz, now 30, adopted his son, Quinton, whom he met as a student in his fourth-grade class at Indigo Christian Academy in Daytona Beach.
At the time Mr. Arauz decided to foster Quinton, who had been bounced around through five different foster homes since the age of 5, he had no intention to adopt him.
“He was a mess,” Mr. Arauz said, recalling that Quinton, 10 at the time, was 25 pounds overweight, riddled with anxiety, destructive, resistant to verbal and physical affection, pulling out his hair and eyebrows and failing in school. “He had no idea what it was to be loved or to return love.”
They got off to a rocky start, as Quinton repeatedly lied, did poorly in school and drilled holes into Mr. Arauz’s apartment walls. After two or three weeks, Mr. Arauz called the foster care agency, saying, “I don’t know if I can do this.”
He got Quinton into counseling, put him on a vegetarian diet and helped him improve his grades.
Quinton soon started to look better. He lost weight and his hair and eyebrows grew back. But emotionally, he was still floundering and resisting affection. He refused to say or hear the word “love,” which had a negative connotation for him.
Thanks to his weight loss, Quinton needed some new clothes, so the two went shopping together. Mr. Arauz said that, thinking as a teacher, he turned the trip into a lesson and added up the purchases on his phone’s calculator. He said he told Quinton, “it’s coming from the money I would have used to go to the movies, to go out to eat at restaurants — that entertainment money, I’m using it on you.”
The reality of Mr. Arauz’s sacrifice struck a chord in Quinton. “That was the first time he came to me and said, ‘I love you,’ three months into the foster care arrangement,” Mr. Arauz recalled.
Read more about Steven’s journey to becoming a foster dad at nytimes.com.