Youngstown’s Hakim Fareed helps fill Valley need
By Kristine Gill
Hakim Fareed never thought he’d be a father.
The Youngstown resident and Washington state native was content mentoring teens in a program he joined back home. But when friends encouraged him to try foster parenting, he took the plunge.
“It took me a few years to contact Mahoning County to start the process,” he said, regarding his hesitancy.
A few years later, Fareed, 38, has adopted a son, is finalizing adoption of a second son, and is working to adopt a third teen in January.
Radhika Cruz, the community educator with Mahoning County Children Services, said there is a constant need for minority teens in foster care to be adopted in the Valley and across the nation.
“People think the kids waiting to be adopted are zero- to 5-year-old Caucasians, but that’s not it,” she said. “Our kids are 9 and up and minorities.”
November is National Adoption Month. MCCS has 34 children awaiting adoption through its foster-care program, and serves hundreds of children each year. But Karen Tesyk, an adoption specialist with MCCS, said some would-be parents can be hesitant to adopt teens.
“They’re the hardest to recruit for, but they need to be prepared for life,” she said. “We all need family. Even after 18.”
Fareed had dealt with some of their behavioral issues as a mentor and felt prepared to take on that age group.
Though Fareed’s children did not wish to be identified, they did agree to be interviewed for this article.
Fareed became Aaron’s (name changed) foster parent when he was a preteen. Fareed had planned to foster Aaron for a time but soon realized he wanted to adopt.
“You just get so attached,” he said. “I wanted to test the waters just to see if I even had the ability to do this, then I realized I can do this.”
Aaron had floated around to various foster homes in the area since he was 4 and had even been through a failed adoption. Now 13, he remembers feeling excited to learn that Fareed, his foster parent of a three years, wanted to adopt him. His advice for other children in foster care is this:
“Don’t give your hopes up,” he said. “Just keep trying and do your best and don’t act up or nothing.”
Fareed said he noticed a change in Aaron when he decided to adopt him permanently.
“When he knew that would happen, the anxiety went away. I closed what I started, and he’s not going to move again,” Fareed said.
Fareed found his second son, Austin (name changed), in Washington through a national adoption program. He visited Austin in Washington for a week to get to know him.
“It was kind of different at first,” Austin, 12, said. “I didn’t know him at all, but I got to know him.”
“He was my GPS,” said Fareed, who added the two went to the mall and the movies and played putt-putt during their week together.
It was during that same week that Austin called Fareed “Dad.”
“I was kind of blown away by that,” Fareed said.
Austin has lived with Fareed for about a year. He said living with a permanent family is radically different from foster care.
“He actually cared about you,” Austin said of Fareed. “He was willing to try to adopt me, and other people just took me in to have a kid there ... they picked me up from school and sent me off to school but didn’t ask how my day was.”
As testament to that difference, Fareed attended parent-teacher conferences for both of his sons last week.
Fareed works full time and attends classes at Trumbull Career & Technical Center. He relies heavily on help from his mother and other friends in raising the boys.
“I didn’t realize how much you sacrifice,” he said. “But I wouldn’t change anything.”