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Being a dad is not just about biology.
Juan Calvo and his husband, Darrow Brown, know that fatherhood isn't limited to a science. In 2007, after Calvo volunteered to care for drug-addicted infants in Baltimore, he knew he wanted to do more.
So, Calvo and Brown became foster dads. The two still remember the moment they met their first foster child.
"The worker came in, she chatted a bit, then left some formula and said, 'Here, here you go. Sign this paper,' " Calvo says. "And this little baby, he was so beautiful."
Calvo says when the baby boy arrived, he needed food and to gain some weight. While he wasn't initially strong enough to belt out a cry, he eventually found his voice.
"I remember his first reaction when he saw you was that he smiled even though he was not in the greatest shape," Brown says.
The boy came to Calvo and Brown when he was 9 months old and stayed with them for 3 1/2 years.
"He was in essence our son," Calvo says. "We loved him that way; we treated him that way."
But then the day came for the child to leave the foster home.
"As much as I tried to prepare myself, there's no way to prepare for that kind of thing," Calvo says.
After he got the call from the caseworker that the boy had to go back almost immediately, Brown says he remembers panicking, picking the boy up from day care and going home to quickly pack some toys and clothes.
"I just remember being on autopilot and just sort of in shock," Brown says.
After the boy left, Calvo says it was hard for them to be in the house.
"Nobody would set foot in his room," Calvo says. "It was sort of uh, the ghost of the kid that used to live there. It was a very sad place."
Even though the men were sad when their first foster child left, when they got a call in 2012 during Thanksgiving weekend about two siblings needing a foster home, Calvo said "How can we not?" and Brown followed with "How can you say no?"
So, they continued to change the lives of the children they fostered, while the children also changed their lives as foster parents.
"I think in some ways, having to love someone and then give them up makes you less demanding of other people," Calvo says. "I think the other thing is being a foster parent made me want to be a foster parent even more. It's hard to lose kids, that's for sure. But I can do this, and I can help them."
As much as they love being foster parents, Brown says there are still some difficult parts of the process.
"I struggle with how they'll, how, how they'll remember us," Brown says. "I want them to remember that they were loved."
Calvo, on the other hand, says he's not sure he wants the kids to remember them.
"I want them to forget that there was some disruption in their life that caused them to have that family pulled apart," Calvo says. "I want them to remember the loving, the warm feeling that they're protected, they're safe. But I, I hope they don't remember us."
Today the couple have an adopted son, Lucas, and they continue to to open their home to foster children.
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Kerrie Hillman.
StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.
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