foster children

The Importance of the 12th Man

Week in and week out, I developed plays for my team, and my players practiced to make sure they executed well. But in life and in football, even the best-designed plays and highly-prepared teams can fail in the face of adversity and disappointment. Those challenges weigh you down. For my players on the field, a coach’s voice of encouragement and supportive cheers from the crowd helped instill the strength to face those obstacles and keep moving forward.

I remember it well. The cheers from our fans in the stands were central when we were down. We needed them. Their support and encouragement at times provided such a push that they seemed like an extra player on the field—the 12th man. The same is true for us as individuals and families dealing with the ups and downs of everyday life. Just like the players I coached, we sometimes feel overwhelmed, even when we’re doing our very best. But encouragement helps—and there’s a group of people you may know who need encouragement from you.

Everyone faces struggles.

My wife and I know how helpful it is to have a strong fan base in life. When we began adopting our children, and then fostering, the support from our friends and family was invaluable—and it still is. Our children are amazing and we are grateful for them every day. But as is the case with any family, there are tough days and great days. We have toddlers who are learning the word “No!” and we have teenagers who are finding their own voice.

With children at home from ages 3 to 18, we have our hands full. The support of friends and family both near and far help guide us and encourage us, which is exactly what we need. This type of support and encouragement is critical for foster and adoptive families. And as a friend, colleague, or relative of someone who has adopted or foster children in the home, you can help lift up their family just as our fans lifted up our teams. Indeed, for many, you might just be the 12th man.

Families need your encouragement.

Couples and families who are preparing to foster children or adopt are given extensive amounts of information, go through rigorous interviews and visits, and prepare day in, day out to expand their families. But all the tactics they learn can be hard to remember when there are hiccups in the process. Fan sections—their family and friends—can help them refocus and remember the impact their journey will have.

People who hope to adopt or foster a child know that welcoming a child into their home will be joyous and challenging, all at the same time. Creating a family is hard. And they need people outside the home to support and encourage them. They need a helping hand, an ear to listen, and a place to rest. Cheering on your friends and family who adopt and foster is like being their personal fan base. Support them, encourage them, and love them well so that they, in turn, can love their families well.

Sound off: How can you encourage friends who have fostered or adopted kids?

Caring parents are needed every day for foster children as well as for children who need permanent homes. Learn more about the needs in Florida and South Carolina by visiting

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Who are some people you think could use some encouragement?”