Joe Toles can be forgiven for wanting to take life a little easier: Now 60, the Queen’s bachelor spent the past decade raising six sons he adopted on his own. Even so, he’s about to take in a seventh: 20-year-old Jhon, from the Dominican Republic who has learning difficulties. “There’s never going to be the perfect time to start or expand your family,” the former guidance counselor tells The Post. “But this feels like the right thing to do.”
Toles grew up in foster care.
Since then, he’s wanted to provide stability and security for the most vulnerable members of society: the teens and early 20-somethings frequently at the bottom of the list when it comes to adoption.
“Most people want babies,” says Toles, who helps foster kids get sponsorship to summer camps and other activities through his eponymous foundation which he established in 2005. “They’re looking for warm and cuddly.”
He knows the pain of not having a home of his own. Born to a 15-year-old, he was sent into foster care from the start and struggled throughout his childhood. While he was good at athletic endeavors, particularly running, he was hurt that his foster parents didn’t support him or attend his competitive sporting events.
Research shows that foster teens who aren’t adopted are more at risk of dropping out of high school, living below the poverty line and becoming homeless. But Toles lucked out when a track coach took the once-introverted teen under his wing. Not only did he finish high school, but he won a full athletic scholarship to Alabama’s Auburn University.
“The coach said, ‘I treat you the way you deserve to be treated,’ and that’s the way I raise my sons,” Toles says. He admits that he’s had to contend with challenging issues revolving around puberty and behavioral problems. (Besides Jhon, two of his other boys have special needs.)
But Toles said he has received great support from the nonprofit You Gotta Believe, which specializes in finding permanent homes for hard-to-place teens and young adults. The organization has matched Toles with all of his children since he adopted his first son, Xavier, then 17, in 2009.
A year later, Toles took in Johnathan, now 24, followed by Ronny, 21, in 2012 and Creemel, 25, in 2014. They were followed by Kamren, 14, in 2017 and Cinsere, 13, in 2018. Toles is now taking the final steps to becoming a legal father to Jhon.
“Adopting an older child gives hope to somebody who probably doesn’t have much hope at that moment,” he says. “No matter how old they are, they need a home base and to be part of something.”
And that’s more important now than ever, as Xavier has 3-year-old twin boys of his own who he stays close to, even though he’s no longer with their mom. “He is the coach in the corner,” Xavier, who also lives in Queens, says of Toles. “If I’m ever having difficulty with my kids, I’ll reach out to him and ask, ‘What would you do?’ ”
“It takes work, but I make the effort in nurturing the relationships,” Toles says. “Until I took the plunge, I would never have understood the real difference it’s made to all our lives. Love happens and it changes everything.”
This Story Was Originally Published On “nypost.com”