In 2019, North Carolina foster dad Peter Mutabazi officially adopted his teen foster son, Anthony. He'd been abandoned by his previous adopted parents at a hospital when he was just 11 years old, with no explanation. When he was a child growing up in Uganda, Mutabazi ran away from an abusive home and was homeless until a kind stranger took him in. So he knows firsthand exactly how hard and lonely it feels to be without a family and a safe home to live in.
This is why he's dedicated his adult life to making sure other kids don't have to feel that way. Since formally adopting Anthony, Mutabazi has fostered more than a dozen children, according to TODAY.
When the pandemic brought the U.S. to a grinding halt in March 2020, the foster care system paid a huge toll. Basic services and support were suspended and delayed for months. Financial, emotional, educational, social, and even basic housing issues were suspended.
The already overwhelmed foster care system was flooded with COVID-related court closures and delays. Mental health care was confined to Zoom meetings when they weren't postponed. Nationwide, there was an increase in the number of children entering foster care, while there were fewer mandated reporters able to check in on foster homes to take note of child abuse.
In a recent interview, Mutabazi told TODAY host Hoda Kotb that he knew he needed to help. So far, he's welcomed three new foster children since the spring of 2020.
"Most homes have been closed, so I knew there were not many places to go," Mutabazi said. "With foster care, they are overloaded with kids and I could not imagine a kid wanting a safe place to be loved in the midst of this. I could not say no. I had to find a way to give him a safe place, a safe home."
After Anthony was adopted, he told Kotb he asked Mutabazi if he could call him "dad."
"I just wanted somewhere that I could feel safe and secure and I knew that I could stay there without worrying about moving somewhere else," Anthony said.
And now, because of Mutabazi's calling to be a foster parent—when a kind, loving home is sorely needed after the last year-and-a-half, maybe more kids will get the opportunity to call him "dad," too.