For Joe Toles, the track to fatherhood runs straight through foster care.
"My mission, my purpose, is to help," Toles told CBS News.
Toles grew up in foster homes and aged out of the system. Then, he found a father figure in his track coach.
"He saw something in me that nobody else did, and he made me believe it," said Toles, who is from New York City but now resides in Alabama.
More than 23,000 children age out of the U.S. foster care system every year, according to numbers from the National Foster Youth Institute, and about 20% become homeless. State laws vary regarding when a foster child ages out of the system. In some states, once a foster child reaches age 18, the foster care agency must obtain the child's written consent to remain in care, which they can do until they turn 21.
So, after graduating from Auburn University, Toles made it his mission to adopt.
"I am of the mindset that everything that happened to me in life was in preparation for me to be the best who I could be," Toles said.
He has adopted eight boys, most of them through the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, all at risk of aging out of the system. Xavier, Toles' first son, was adopted at the age of 18.
"It was kind of like, I didn't need a parent for all these years," Xavier said. "Why do I need one now?"
Each of his sons have discovered their own version of success, and some have gone on to have children of their own. They have made achievements in education and athletics, and one entered a competitive job training program at Disney World.
"I had to get used to someone seeing me, telling me, 'It's okay to have emotions and express yourself," Toles' son Jhon Fernandez said.
Toles gave his boys the gift of family.
"They're my kids, it's worth it, because you fall in love," Toles said.
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