The Cast of Characters and the Backstory

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 He was very tall, nearly a man by appearances, and extremely shy and withdrawn.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.


11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just started reading your blog and have just finished reading everything you've written so far. I am simply amazed and encouraged....After hearing and reading story after story about child abuse, I have felt so moved to open my home to a child(ren). My husband is finishing up school and I'm currently working part time, but in a about a year or two, we should be better financially and we are going to take the plunge. Thank you for sharing your story. I've been reading so many other blogs on adoption, RAD (which I never knew about) foster parenting, and I was seriously getting discouraged. But like with anything else, nothing about parenting is easy, even your own biological children is tough. I still want to do it and will continue to read and talk to other folks. Thanks for sharing...T sounds absolutely amazing. I am glad you found each other.

carriemooch said...

Ms McCabe, Your journey is wonderful, congrats to you, T and your partner. I was wondering if you would have any interest in a project we are working on for foster parents... http://www.emkpress.com/fosterparenting.html

we are looking for articles about adopting older children out of foster care in the hopes that we can find families for more kids. And prepare better those who take on the challenge. Please let me know if this is something that might be of interest to you. Your perspective is enlightening and would be so helpful to others.

Best

Carrie Kitze
Publisher
EMK Press

Hannah Halliwell said...

Hi there.

I just stumbled across your blog in yet another desperate attempt to find answers, support, connection, sanity, peace... the list goes on... as my husband and I settle into our fifth month with our newly adopted teen daughter. I haven't read all your posts (yet) but I want you to know that just the few I have read made me feel better. So thank you. Although we have great friends and family, we have felt very isolated in this process. Some days are great, and some days are awful. Perhaps the answers are somewhere in the posts I haven't read, but I am wondering if you know of any groups or the like of parents who have adopted teens in the Los Angeles area. We don't have the connection with DCFS and Foster Care because we adopted our teen internationally. We've never met any one else who has adopted an older teen (our daughter was 18 when we finally got her home). And we are looking for some support and connection with like minded adoptive parents.

Thanks again for putting it all out there. All the best to your family.

Anonymous said...

I started reading your blog after it was recommended by a fellow student in my social work class last year. Your family's journey is so inspiring and courageous. T sounds like a wonderful and interesting young man and I wish him and the rest of your family all the best. Thank you so much for sharing your story and inspiring so many of us in the process to be the change we want to see in the world.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing and posting your story. I just found your blog yesterday and I'm working my way through from the beginning. My husband and I are currently trying to figure out whether fostering or adoptining is something that's right for us. You're answering questions I wasn't sure how to even ask. From the bottom of my heart thank you.

Chris Henry said...

I found your blog a few days ago and have read each entry from start to finish, and I am truly overwhelmed. I really thought that I was all alone in this journey. Much of your story is mine with just some tweaking of details. My son is nearing 16 and in a residential home tackling his substance abuse, running, and stealing issues which are really just symptoms of whatever's going on inside. I am hoping he'll be home in the next few months. I just wanted to say thank you so much for being willing to share. You helped me more than you will ever know!

Chris Henry said...

I found your blog a few days ago and have read each entry from start to finish, and I am truly overwhelmed. I really thought that I was all alone in this journey. Much of your story is mine with just some tweaking of details. My son is nearing 16 and in a residential home tackling his substance abuse, running, and stealing issues which are really just symptoms of whatever's going on inside. I am hoping he'll be home in the next few months. I just wanted to say thank you so much for being willing to share. You helped me more than you will ever know!

Chris Henry said...

I found your blog a few days ago and have read each entry from start to finish, and I am truly overwhelmed. I really thought that I was all alone in this journey. Much of your story is mine with just some tweaking of details. My son is nearing 16 and in a residential home tackling his substance abuse, running, and stealing issues which are really just symptoms of whatever's going on inside. I am hoping he'll be home in the next few months. I just wanted to say thank you so much for being willing to share. You helped me more than you will ever know!

Anonymous said...

Is your partner a man or a woman? The cast of characters was ambiguous on that score.

Barbra said...

I am so glad to have found your blog and to have been able to read your journey so far. My husband and I have just decided to parent a 17 year old boy that he has known for 10 years, but I had only met once (before he came to visit two weeks ago). Although his background is very different from T's, the experience of meeting him was the same for me; I fell in love and knew I wanted to keep him. I don't know anyone else who is doing such a thing and I would love to talk more about it. Thank you for sharing your life with us--it's made me feel more understood for sure!

Anonymous said...

just found your blog. I'm beginning step 0.0001 of 1,000,000 into fostering/adopting....not sure it even is a "fit" for our family or not but it's on my heart. I'll be looking into all your past posts as I progress through the red tape of our lovely state of CA.

 
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