With Father’s Day approaching Peter Yankala, owner of Phillips Men’s Wear in Barrington, is answering customer inquiries on what gift to give dad this year. In our latest Voices of Adoption profile, the father of two adult children, one of whom came to his family through adoption, tells us what he thinks is the greatest gift of all.
From Fostering to Fatherhood
As told by Peter Yankala to writer Mary Klest
I still call Nathan ‘our gift.’ He’s 32 years old living in Philadelphia and working in the IT industry. He came into my life through adoption. From the moment I first held him when he was two days old, he continues to surprise me.
I was comfortable in my life. I married at the age of 37. I owned a house and a business and enjoyed traveling. I wasn’t longing for anything, but my wife wanted to be a mom. We got licensed as foster care parents and provided a safe home for children who needed short-term respite. It was gratifying helping kids in desperate situations.
However, we were more like caretakers than parents to those kids because they moved on. A friend of ours who was an attorney had founded a group home to help young pregnant moms. He knew we were fostering kids and let us know that a very young mom who was unable to support her child wanted to find a good home for the baby. We named him Nathan. My surprise that day was how much I instantly loved being his dad. We bonded right away, napped together, played together, and traveled together.
In those days adoptive parents worried about whether or not to tell the child they came into the family through adoption. Some kept it a secret. Others were candid with their kids. Surprisingly, I would never have to worry because Nathan has always accepted me as his dad. He’s never questioned me about that.
During his school years Nathan was very athletic, playing three sports during high school and baseball in college. I’ve never been an athlete, so each new sports venture offered another surprise. We share a strong work ethic and enthusiasm for travel. We differ in our sense of style. He would swap the Polo sweatshirt I gave him with one from the GAP and not know the difference. When he shows up in a gray suit with bright green alligator shoes, I see that he has a style all his own. I don’t own a colored shirt now. I wear white shirts every day. For me, it cuts down on the decision process. We’re all different.
When Nathan lived nearby, we would play golf every Father’s Day and have dinner together. Quality time together is the greatest gift I can think of. All fathers need to be in the game.
Six years after Nathan came into our lives, my daughter Cassandra was born. Cass was more predictable than Nathan, very focused on the life she would lead, leaving little room for surprises. Nathan adored her and they remain close to this day.
My one regret is that I didn’t spend more time with my kids when they were growing up. Being a small business owner, I worked six days a week. Now that they are grown, I’m glad we can enjoy taking trips, sailing, and just being together. They are good, kind people. They know how to give back.
I’ve been a strong supporter of Let It Be Us because they are providing programming to build a bridge between the huge pool of children in foster care and the population of people who want to be parents. How to connect the two is a process that shouldn’t be confusing. My personal experience with foster care and adoption allows me to relate to the mission. Adoption through foster care seems to be a gray area for people who are willing and able to adopt. These people can feed off the knowledge of the organization’s executive director Susan McConnell and her team at Let It Be Us.
My store has been in Barrington for 41 years. I have generational relationships with hard working, influential people who will respond to worthy causes. Let It Be Us is one of the worthy causes I support through financial donations, marketing assistance, and as a food and coat drives destination. Whatever I can do to help, I will. Barrington is the biggest giving zip code in the Midwest.
Our dads at the store, several of whom are adoptive fathers, are supporters as well. I’m a bit envious of them when I see all the time they have with their kids. If I see a man who is thinking about adopting a child to start or expand his family, I tell him: ‘It is one of the greatest experiences you could have. In addition to being a father, you are changing the world one child at a time. Who knows who they will become?’ It’s a wonderful surprise and a very special gift.
Happy Father’s Day to every man who opens his heart to a child. We hope you enjoy learning about foster care in Illinois through these stories of love, generosity and kindness. If you or someone you know is curious about how to get licensed as a foster parent in Illinois, please call 847-764-LIBU or visit LetitBeUs.org.
Let It Be Us also hosts a series of “Fireside Chats” on Foster Care & Adoption at Barrington’s White House. These events are funded through a grant from the Barrington Area Community Foundation. Click here for their latest schedule of upcoming sessions and reserve your spot today. If you’d like to help Let It Be Us help unite more foster children with loving families, click here to make a donation.