Faces of Fatherhood

June 20, 2010 (CHICAGO) On this Father's Day, ABC7 is taking a look at a few dads in not-so-typical situations.

David Neubecker is a stay-at-home dad. He stopped working full-time in real estate shortly after 7-year-old Braiden and 6-year-old Michael came into his home through the foster care system.

"There's feeling by people on the outside that it's not work, and I could tell you that I'm working harder now than I have ever worked," said Neubecker.

This Father's Day was the first for David and his partner, Lee Neubecker, since the children's adoptions became final.

"I felt like, from day one, that I was their father. We've celebrated Father's Day before, and I guess this one is more special. And it's nice to know now that we have the law that validates that we're their parents, and that's really a great thing," Lee Neubecker said.

The two say intolerance can be a factor as gay couple raising children, but they see the bigger issue as being adoptive parents of foster children.

"Like many kids in the foster system, they did not trust adults. So, you know, they needed some place where they could feel safe again, and feel unconditional love. So, we worked really hard from the moment they walked in the door to make sure they really had that," said Lee Neubecker.

Isiah Linnear knows all about the foster care system. He grew up as a ward of the state. That's why he was determined to take the lead six years ago when his relationship ended with the mother of his five school-aged children.

"I just knew that I had a responsibility for my kids to, you know, try to do the best, to give them the very best of life and try to steer them out of the path that I kind of grew up in. I grew up in a foster home, and so, I didn't want them to go that direction," he said.

The situation can be tough on the children, but they have learned to cope.

"It feels kind of weird inside cause, you know, mom always liked the girls and dad likes all the boys. So, it's twisted up a little bit in our family. And you know, it's hard," 11-year-old Lezlie Ann Marie Linnear said.

"What makes my dad a good dad is that he's a provider and that he's strong enough to take care of all of us," said Isiah Linnear Jr, 12.

Linnear has three girls and two boys. The oldest is 15 years old, and the youngest is 7 years old. He says dealing with unknown territory-- like the emotions of teenage girls-- stumps him at times, but patience and flexibility always pull him through.

"Just to see them smiling, and I know that they are safe and that they [are] content, you know that's really the joy I have," the father said.

Patience is a virtue that Juvetino Ponce is close to mastering. His wife, Sgt. Carol Ponce, recently deployed with the Illinois Army National Guard for a peace-keeping mission in Egypt. She's expected to be away a full year, which leaves her husband behind to care for 16-year-old Crystal, 3-year-old Alyssa and 18-month-old Max.

The children have an iron-on transfer of her picture on their pillowcases so they can always sleep with her near.

"We can't part her from that pillow. If it's not on her bed, she won't sleep. She'll have to come out and get it," Ponce said.

Ponce says cooking, cleaning - even diaper duty-- has been a relative breeze, so far.

"I think I'm kind of doing what any other parent would do, just like the literally thousands of other soldiers that have to deal with the same thing," he said.

It's watching the children grow up without their mom that makes his job the hardest.

The Ponce family recently set up a Skype account so the children will be able see their mom at least occasionally while she is away.

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