Single Longview man becomes foster father to niece, nephew
June 17, 2017 at 11 p.m.
Dequante Thomas abandoned his bachelor lifestyle more than a year ago.
Instead, the Longview man turned his apartment into a home for young family members who needed one.
"I had to adjust big time," said Thomas, 27, standing outside an under-construction Habitat for Humanity home on Sabine Street. Once built, it will be home to himself, his 6-year-old nephew and 4-year-old niece.
Thomas became foster parent for the two children less than two years ago, when an incident involving his sister led Child Protective Services to consider foster parenting for the pair, he said.
"Dequante said … that every child deserves a mother and a father, and he stepped up to the plate to fill that role for his niece and nephew," said Debbie Sceorler, director for Buckner's Licensing Kinship Families as Foster Families program.
"We got involved after a referral from the state," Buckner home developer Linda Womack said, "and we were able to license him as an actual foster home so that he could get support in caring for his niece and nephew, and then we've been with him through the process through almost the last year with licensing path."
Kinship placements are required to meet the same standards for verification as non-kinship placements, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. A shortened foster home training program was developed for kinship families who, because of their relationship with the child or children, did not need all of the training provided to new prospective families who might be approved to care for unrelated children in foster care, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
"An incident happened with the family, and I decided to take them in," Thomas said. "I wasn't really used to it, (but) if they were my kids, I mean, we've all made mistakes, so if I had made that mistake I would want somebody man enough or woman enough to take care of my kids, just so that they can get out of the system."
Thomas, who grew up in a two-parent home, first made sure he had support.
"Me and my dad were talking and I said, 'I think I'm going to try to take them in,' and he said, 'Well, if there's anything you need, I'm there for you,' and so I took them in," Thomas said as his nephew shyly hid behind his uncle's right thigh. "I couldn't really do the things I wanted to do anymore like go out, but they made me adjust rather quickly."
More help came along the way. Buckner guided Thomas through the fostering and custodial processes. He began working maintenance for a local school district and took advice, though reluctantly, from another relative in which she was proven right, he said.
"Actually, my grandmother's sister had a house from Habitat (for Humanity) and was telling me about it. Me, I didn't think I would get selected," Thomas said, "so I said I wasn't going to do that, but she said, 'You never know.' So I went down there, filled out the paperwork, and they ended up calling me back two weeks later, and there it is."
The home is several weeks from completion, but Thomas said he already feels the improvement for his family.
"I lived in an apartment for three years … I was always told when I was young that, if you're going to pay for something, you might as well try to buy it," Thomas said, "so I'm tired of living in an apartment paying rent when I can pay a mortgage and maybe own it one day, and plus they have a backyard to play and jump on trampolines. They will be supervised but won't be all out in the streets with other kids."
Womack and Sceorler say Thomas has thought like a father long before now, making him an inspiration this Father's Day weekend.
"He is definitely an inspiration to young men. He's not the average young man that you see in this day and time," Sceorler said.
"He's very sensitive to the needs of his niece and nephew," Womack added. "He meets them without question, without hesitation. He has definitely jumped into a fatherly role that he knew nothing about with grace — I won't say with ease, but with grace."
To learn more about Buckner's foster care and adoption services, visit www.buckner.org/foster-care-adoption/foster-care/.
Thomas said there have been roller-coaster moments as an uncle and parent, but considering what he felt he had to do for his niece and nephew, "it's been kind of straight.
"I would rather have them with family instead of with a stranger that they don't really know. I would rather have them with an uncle, auntie, anyone," Thomas said, "except someone they haven't seen a day in their life."