When Jason and I started out foster parenting we set our parameters that we would accept a placement of one child or two siblings up to age 5. We were first time parents and we were/are young (26 & 28 at the time). Most of our friends had kids under 5 years old. We felt more competent parenting a young child. All those factors led us to set our parameters the way we did.
Over a year later, our hearts have changed a lot. We’ve gained confidence and grown passionate about the kids in the foster care system. When we start back up again, we’re considering opening our home to a child of ANY age. That means we could be placed with a newborn or an 18 year old. As always, we’ll prayerfully consider and discuss each potential placement and decide what will work for our family. This time around we have a 1-year-old daughter to think about, not just two adults.
(Sidenote: Case workers please take note. First time foster parents are scared and may think they only want to accept young children. Don’t turn them away! A year or two later, they might be the ones who are willing to accept any placement.)
Our biggest concerns about parenting, fostering and potentially adopting a teenager are kind of silly. Mine is: what will people think? A 30 year old and 28 year old with a teenage kid? Jason’s is: how much more will it cost to parent an older child? Will we have enough for college? Jason’s response to my fear: does it matter what people think? My response to Jason’s fear: there are grants available for kids from state care to attend college and I’m sure that God will provide financially for our family, just as He always has.
Ever since I learned about the waiting kids in the US, most of whom are over 8 years old, my heart has been breaking for them. Most people consider them to be too old. Not adoptable. But yet, they wait desperately for parents. I’ve had in the back of my mind, “someday, when we’re older, maybe we can adopt an older child.” The past few months, I’ve been thinking a lot about the teenagers that are approaching adulthood. For a kid in state care, adulthood means “aging out:” getting dropped into the real world without any parental support.
I entered adulthood younger than many of my peers. I got married just before my 19th birthday. At 19, I was completely moved out of my parents’ house. Jason and I were renting an apartment, going to college full time, working part time jobs, sharing an old used car to get around, making a budget, paying our own bills. I was 19 and a full-fledged independent adult. Except for one thing… we had a safety net of wonderful parents supporting us. We went boldly, confidently, excitedly out on our own into adulthood—because we knew our parents had our backs. They had taught us how to make a budget and pay bills, helped us get our first car, they assisted us financially through college, and most importantly—we knew without it ever being stated that they would help us when we got in trouble.
And we did run into trouble. Every young adult does. I still vividly remember the morning I went out to the car to go to work and discovered someone had smashed our Ford Focus into the curb during the night. A hit and run. I called our insurance agent to find out what our deducible was and then looked at the checkbook. I called my mom and cried. We were living on such a tight budget that we didn’t have $500 for the deductible. My mom was there to catch me when I fell. Just as my parents always have been. I cannot imagine entering adulthood without parental support.
(Me and Jason on our honeymoon at 19 and 20)
Which brings me back to the “unadoptable” older kids in the US foster care system, waiting, waiting, waiting to be adopted. They know they’re going to age out at 18 and be “free” but most know that’s not really what they want. They want parents and families into adulthood. They want someone to help them decide on a future career. They want somewhere to go home to for Thanksgiving and Christmas break from college. They want someone to walk them down the aisle when they get married. They want someone to celebrate the birth of their first child with them, someone they can call in the middle of the night when the baby won’t stop crying and they’re exhausted. Someone who misses them and calls to check up on them.
I really don’t know what’s in store for our family down the road. We have big dreams but loose plans. I don’t bother making specific long-term plans anymore. God’s plans alway turn out to be different than mine, and so much better. But I wanted to share my heart, because there are thousands and thousands of older kids waiting to be adopted and I can’t fix it on my own.