Single father offers hope to youth as a LSSM foster dad

by Susan Aumiller 25. June 2010 13:50

Luke 12:48b – “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Cole Williams is a hero to the teen boys in his home, especially his own 15-year-old son Nathan, who told him, “I’m proud of you, because you’re a really good father.”

Cole understands them. When he himself was 15, his mother moved to a subsidized apartment that did not have room for him. His former fifth-grade math teacher, Ralph Cantania, took him in. “I was grateful, but I didn’t know what to expect,” Cole recalled. “I was a young black man, and he was a white man.”

Cantania was in his mid-fifties, divorced and childless. “He was the nicest kid,” he said, “and he needed someone.” Cantania became Cole’s legal guardian, then learned the boy was going to be a father. “What impressed me was Cole’s promise, ‘My son is going to know who his father is.’”

Cole went to parenting groups and learned skills for raising his son. For about two years, Cole saw his son regularly and brought him home on weekends. Then Nathan came to stay for good.

Two years ago, the two moved back to Grand Rapids, Michigan, from New Jersey. Cole works for St. John’s Home, a foster care residential shelter program in Grand Rapids for children ages infant to 18 years old. “I saw kids come in with no place to go,” Cole said. “I want them to know that I am someone they can depend on.”

Cole, now a licensed foster parent through Lutheran Social Services of Michigan, is Dad to a home full of teenage boys. “This is a very real family,” Cole said. “These are my sons. We deal with real issues. It comes with real responsibilities. We’re dealing with children who were abused and neglected. It involves a lot of sacrifice. But the more you know, the more you owe. You can make a difference."

More foster homes are needed for hurting children and youth. Visit

Read the feature story about Cole Williams that ran in The Grand Rapids Press on Father’s Day, June 20, 2010.

Listen to the StoryCorps recording of Cole Williams and guardian Ralph Cantania.

Listen to the StoryCorps recording of Cole Williams and his 15-year-old son Nate.

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