At age 11, Luis* was removed from the violence of his home, and placed with a foster family through The Home for Little Wanderers. His new parents welcomed him, wanted him and supported him, and, after a few years, talked with Luis about adopting him. As children are hardwired to do, Luis still hoped to be reunited with his birth family, with whom he had little to no contact. He wasn’t sure what to do.
As a teenager, Luis was still conflicted, explains Intensive Foster Care Recruitment Coordinator Lucy Collins. Some days he’d say, “Yep, I’d like to be adopted.” Other days, he’d say no, they should continue fostering. Luis never felt pressure to decide. When Luis was 16, his family talked with him about guardianship, a form of permanency that, technically, ends at age 18. Luis liked the idea, and they pursued it as if it were the plan.
PAST MEETS PRESENT
At one point, Luis reconnected online with his older sister, who was living elsewhere, away from the biological family. She began unloading painful family history and sharing things that had happened that Luis didn’t remember, at least not in the way that she did. Luis was troubled and having a hard time, so he went to his foster mother to say: I don’t know what to do.
She did. With his permission, Luis’ foster mom contacted his sister to tell her that she was giving Luis information he could not handle. She explained to Luis’ sister that Luis loves her, and it is okay to connect, but any future contact needs to go through her. “Mom did what moms do. She protected her son,” says Lucy. “He had lived with the family so long, and had such trust in his foster parents, that he was able to go to them to say: ‘I can’t handle this.’”
A PLAN TAKES SHAPE
Luis and his foster mom, who was in nursing school at the time, were at an IEP meeting at school when Luis’ story took a new trajectory. When the school staff asked Luis about his three-year plan, he replied: “My mother’s in nursing school right now, but when she graduates, my parents are going to adopt me.” Luis was 17 and a half. The school staff member looked to Mom for confirmation, and though this was news to her, she nodded and said, “Yes! That’s our plan.”
The court papers were quickly drawn up, and Luis was adopted as an 18-year-old. Lucy both respects and credits his parents for riding the roller coaster right along with Luis and for their unhurried, ready-when-you-are approach. “Many people think that you can’t adopt anybody after the age of 18,” says Lucy. “That isn’t the case.”
In some ways, Luis’ adoption papers substantiated what he had known all along—that his parents were firmly in his corner and weren’t going anywhere. In others, they marked a new beginning. Luis no longer needed to weigh if or how he belonged. He just knew that he did.
The Home has a great need for foster care parents, especially for teens. If you’d like to learn more about becoming a foster care parent or a long-term connection for our youth, please contact us at email@example.com.
*The youth’s name has been changed for privacy.