Reading child summaries can be daunting: they outline every difficult thing that has happened to a foster child, and sometimes it can feel as though the child’s challenges and needs outweigh the strengths and positives. While the summary does include the child’s strengths, likes and dislikes, what they hope for in a family, and so on, reading those words isn’t the same as experiencing the child in person. After all, humans are too complex to be summed up by words on a page.
Ask anyone who’s raised children through the teenage years, and they’ll tell you, parenting a teen is not for the faint of heart! Maybe you have a pre-adoptive placement who has just entered adolescence and you’re finding it challenging to connect with them. Or maybe you’ve just been matched with a teenager who is about to move into your home and you’re panicking about how to relate to them. You are not alone! We’ve put together some tips on how to make the teen years a little more enjoyable (or at least a little less daunting) for everyone involved.
As a single man in his 50′s, Andrew never saw himself as a father. “I thought the whole idea was pretty much preposterous, you know. My age. Single. What business do I have doing this?” said Andrew. But when Andrew saw Alex’s news segment, he saw so much of himself in Alex that he knew he wanted to help. Seven months after meeting Alex and just three days before Alex’s 18th birthday, their adoption day arrived. Andrew surprised Alex with cake, and Alex was thrilled to make it official. “After 13 years, it’s good,” said Alex. “After 13 years, I’m done. Out of the system!”
Hosting match events is one of the most enjoyable activities we get to do at Indiana Adoption Program. These events are held every couple of months, and bring together recommended pre-adoptive families with youth who are looking for their forever home. Match events can be magical to watch — we get to see a room of timid kids and adults turn from strangers to fast friends in just a few short hours.
For teens in foster care, turning 18 offers a very different reality. They don’t have that safe place to call home. The home most of us can go to when things get hard, or family to call when we need advice. While nothing compares to the forever family every youth deserves, there are resources in place for Indiana teens at risk of “aging out” of foster care.
When you think of millennials, what comes to mind? Maybe college students in coffee shops, “digital natives,” or younger people who have a renewed interest in collecting “vintage” items like Polaroid cameras, vinyl records, or needlepoint. But how many of you think of millennials as adoptive parents…to teens? Maricela and Cody — in their 20s themselves — share why they decided to adopt a teen from foster care, and offer some advice for other families.
When 14-year-old Hannah found out about a boy in school who needed a family, she was eager to tell her parents Todd and Tammy (who happened to be foster parents) all about him. As fate would have it, Tammy was a substitute teacher at the time, and she often had Nayvin in class. In fact, the two had already clicked. Nayvin would even jokingly ask Tammy to adopt him. What started out as a silly joke, though, soon turned into reality.
When Megan and Jeremy first became foster parents, they set some very firm boundaries: Nobody over the age of 10, and ideally someone younger than their biological son. Fast forward to November 2020, when their family finalized their first adoption — of a teenage girl! Their unexpected change of heart changed the life of an Indiana teenager in foster care.
In many ways, parenting an adopted teenager is no different than parenting a biological teen. There are also some key differences, though. In this post, we look at two elements of parenting adopted teens: brain development and identity.
Alex longs for an adoptive family, but at 17, he worries that won’t happen before he ages out of foster care. Still, he’s hopeful for parents who will embrace and support him as he grows into young adulthood.
After 5 years in foster care, Kiaera remains optimistic about finding a forever family. “I have to keep my hopes up,” she says. Soft-spoken and bubbly, she’s enthusiastic about the possibilities her future holds, and is eager for a family to be her constant.
Adoptive parents Shelly and Michelle are the first to acknowledge that adopting siblings from foster care hasn’t always been an easy road. At times, the couple felt like they were being pushed to their limits, but now they consider those experiences as preparing them to be the best parents possible for Matthew and Alex.
When we talked with Joel and Deborah in 2015, they shared their “all-in” approach to parenting: if you’re going to do it, do it all the way, with all your heart. “We were all-in from the moment we met [our boys]. We were learning them and they were learning us. We had to learn real quick,” laughs Joel. It’s been 10 years since the boys’ adoptions were finalized, and the family doesn’t think much about labels like “adopted” or “biological.”
While we focus on celebrating adoption during National Adoption Month, it’s also important to hear what young people in foster care are saying about what they need in a family, what they want, what’s most important to them. Encouraging youth to have a voice in their permanency planning is empowering and keeps the focus where it should be: on what is in the child’s best interests.