Melissa and Brian Cheatham had the opportunity to adopt their son Derrick from foster care in 2015. Although Derrick wasn’t quite a teen when the Cheathams adopted him, that process revealed to Melissa & Brian that they have a heart for older youth. Can older kids be challenging at times? Sure, but have you ever met a kid of any age who isn’t challenging at times?

A few years after adopting Derrick, the Cheathams began to feel as though their family wasn’t complete. They became interested in Indiana Adoption Program, and after reviewing some child profiles, Melissa says they felt drawn to a young woman in particular. After interviewing with Bethany’s team and then meeting her, they say they “just felt like she was our daughter.”

Melissa & Brian are honest: adopting an older child is not a “tiptoe through the tulips” experience where things are easy all the time. These children and teens have been through a lot. They’ve had to grow up faster than children should. They’ve learned to be wary of adults. But Brian and Melissa are the sort of parents who know that older youth in foster care have been let down enough in their lives, and they need family that can commit through good and bad, ugly and beautiful.

The Cheathams insist that what makes the hurdles worth it is when you see the children “bloom.” The key is having a support system you can count on. That village we all talk about needing? It’s a real need! And don’t wait until after committing to a child to find your network of support — you’ve got to make sure you have people on your side who are in this for the long haul with you. (But don’t forget, you can always add to your support system!) In Melissa & Brian’s case, one of their greatest supports was Bethany’s case manager who was “committed to seeing our girl make it to forever.” For Bethany, who had been in foster care for over 2,100 days, that already felt like forever. But as of June 2022, forever has a whole new meaning.

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