Weeds and Flowers
Are you seriously adopting a teenager???
(Insert thunder and screaming in the distance)
Ok so I have no idea what I am doing. About a year ago, my husband and I took a placement of a teenage girl. A year in, we have decided to adopt her. So the “not knowing what I am doing” feeling happens a lot in my world. Not with the choice I have made to adopt a teenager. That was the easy part. But writing this blog post scares me to death.
I initially started posting my journey of adopting a teenage girl through the Kentucky foster care system on Facebook. Where my friends could see it. Where my family could see it. Where I could post as it went so I could track the adventure for my soon to be daughter. Someone mentioned I should blog it. I was hesitant. I am not a writer by trade. So bear with me .. this is an ongoing story of adopting a teenage girl. One who has already stolen my heart. And probably some of my sanity. But isn’t that what teenagers do? Drive you crazy.
There is no “once upon a time” in this story. No “dark and stormy night”. I currently train and license foster parents for New Beginnings Family Services in Elizabethtown Kentucky. I also am the event coordinator for Via Colori Kentucky, which is a street painting festival to raise money and awareness for foster children. (shameless self promoting plug – look it up .. it is the most awesome festival in Kentucky)
For five years, I have trained bunches of parents and they have taken placements of foster children. I have stood in front them, not as a fellow foster parent, but as their trainer. I encouraged them, prepared them the best that I could and taught them from a book. I am a mom – not a foster mom – but just a mom to three boys. I had no foster care experience outside of my training manual – yet week in and week out – I passionately trained foster parents to take on a role I had not.
My husband and I opened our home 3 years ago and prior to our current youth, we had a teenager who aged out of the system and then two toddlers who were moved to an adoptive home. We took a break for about a year after the toddlers. We were tired. We were sad and we just need time to rest from the ups and downs of the first two placements.
The week we were slated to open back up, I got wind of a young lady who desperately needed a placement. She was described as super smart and quirky in a fun way. Without going into too much detail – we jumped and the universe aligned and we brought her home.
Our relationship started at the dining room table where we had to convince her that she would be ok and that she was safe. The rest is history. This past summer, she came out of her shell. She planted a garden in the backyard. This garden was made up of anything and everything that was green, including weeds.
Now I am not an avid gardener, I usually throw some seeds into my garden bed and hope for the best. My nature loving foster daughter was the exact opposite. We “gifted her” a portion of the back yard and let her dig her way to china. It was a healthy outlet for her emotional needs. Plants and weeds started to flourish in this little flower bed.
Weeds, by definition, are wild plants growing where they are not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants. Kind of like teenagers in foster care. I see it every day. People come in, want to be foster parents, want to save a kiddo and always seem to want babies or little ones. They say “Little ones are great and young enough to turn around”…. I always twitch when they say this. There is not one thing wrong with wanting little ones. Kids of all ages that are in the system need love. And truthfully – I do not want little ones anymore – this job taught me that – teens are where it is at for me.
But my heart breaks a little every time, because I know personally how many teens really need a home. Really need a chance. Really need to not wind up aging out of the system without ever knowing that “forever” family. They are like weeds.
People seem to be scared of teenagers. There is a social stigma with teens in general and the social stigma of teens in the system — they are sometimes viewed as defiant, rebellious and hard to handle. They can be these things and more. But let me tell you something – trust me, they are not deviant serial killers in the making who will feed your babies to dingoes in the woods for fun. So not the case. They are still just kids. Most of them are angry, not trusting and they have been let down and very hurt by so many people, it is easier to have a wall or behaviors that scare people from getting too close. And those behaviors can overshadow life. Like weeds.
I am not here to push people to run to us at New Beginnings Family Services and proclaim to the rooftops “I will foster teenagers” – (that would be fantastic though if you want to do that … just sayin) – I am just here to tell my story – her story – our story.
Now mind you, I am not a mom to girls. My sons are 14, 17 and 25. Girls are a whole different ball of wax. But we jumped and have yet to look back with any regret. I don’t think I will. There will some hard times coming as is expected of teenagers – but really, we are her chance to blossom and that is worth the hard times. In my book.
So we hope to plant the seeds to help her handle adulthood and the leave the weeds that define her acceptance of everything, as that is beautiful. And our garden grows … a little differently than before .. but it grows …
NBFS Director of Development and Recruitment