In our house, there live: one elderly cat who's been with me since college; my partner who is a musician, journalist and incredibly steady character; our teenage foster/adoptive kid T. whom we met in the spring of 2009; T.'s baby bearded dragon lizard (a 16th birthday present) and, of course, me.
I knew several foster kids growing up and decided long ago that, rather than have babies, I would like to foster and possibly adopt older kids who couldn't return home to their birth families for whatever reason.
My extremely open-minded partner signed up to the plan. We figured it would be a sort of steadily unfolding process of getting licensed, fostering a few kids one at a time, possibly leading to adoption depending on the circumstances.
That's not what happened. Instead, at one of our first "meet and mingle" events with foster kids, we met T. He had been looking for adoptive parents. He was very tall, nearly a man by appearances, and extremely shy and withdrawn. We barely spoke but there was something about him that made a deep impression.
We got in touch with his adoption worker and offered to "host" him on weekends - something our program encouraged. We spent every single weekend together for six months while we pursued our state foster license, parenting classes and various permissions from the county DCFS to have him live with us full time. It was a rough period for all involved.
T. finally moved in with us around Thanksgiving of 2009. That first spark of recognition turned out to be a guiding light; we are very well-suited to each other.
T. has survived every conceivable kind of child abuse. He went into foster care when he was four days old and cycled through 16 homes before moving in with us. He is still able and in fact eager to bond with caring adults. He is also well served by an excellent sense of humor. He faces lots of challenges and one might encapsulate some of the lasting symptoms of his early mistreatment under the umbrella of PTSD, but he also has formidable gifts, among them incredible resilience.
Although our adoption hasn't finalized, T. considers himself adopted. We love him more than we ever thought it possible to love someone else. We know his birth mom, who reentered his life in his early teenage years, his extended family, and his brother, and we encourage relationships with all of them and strongly support "open adoption" - the idea that adoption is about putting all the pieces together, not about dividing loyalties. He told us early on that adoption, to him, means "people work with you and give you guidance instead of giving you away." Working with him means helping him build healthy connections to all the people who are important to him.
This blog is my journal of the ups and downs of being a foster/adoptive parent and I hope somebody else who might want to foster/adopt teenagers will find it useful and encouraging.
All names have been changed to protect T.'s privacy.
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