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Understanding Adoption

By November 2, 2022General

Adopting a child through foster care often turns out differently than families expect. It’s National Adoption Month – and we’d like to offer a few thoughts on understanding adoption through the lens of foster care.

The McCorristans adopted a teen from foster care

Consider Teens

Teens want a family to share Thanksgiving, and be there to listen

Teenagers, children with special needs and sibling groups are often overlooked when families want to adopt. When infants come into foster care, they usually have siblings and they are fostered in the same home. This is key to understanding adoption from foster care. Every year in Utah, up to 150 youth age out of foster care without a permanent home. Some other useful facts:

  • 43% of Utah children in foster care are over the age of eleven.
  • Youth who age out are more likely to drop out of high school, never attend college, and experience homelessness and early pregnancy.
  • More than half of adults surveyed believe children are in foster care because they are juvenile delinquents. (source: Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption).
  • The truth is that kids of all ages are in foster care through no fault of their own and have experienced trauma through abuse or neglect.

“The one thing I want you to know about teens in foster care is, we’re just looking for love, like anyone else,” says Ashley, who now attends Snow College, with the support of adoptive parents. “We’re looking for a stable home, a stable family.”

A family to share Thanksgiving dinner, help them apply for college, and be there to listen when they struggle.

“The majority of our teens want a family.” says Aubrey Myers, who heads Utah’s Transition to Adult Living (TAL) program for teens who age out. “They want a family to see them for who they are, understand their histories and respect their connections to their birth family.”

Create a relationship with the child’s family

Shari Peña says one of her greatest blessings is the enduring bond she has created with bio mother Kylei Washburn. To deal with substance use disorder, Kylei finished a year-long recovery program. During that time, Shari fostered her child, sending daily photos and mentoring Kylei as well.

Bio mom Kylei and foster mom Shari have forged a strong, lasting relationship.

“I felt so much shame when my child was placed into foster care because of my addiction,” says Kylei. “I couldn’t even look Shari in the eye. I needed her support. She is now my second mom and lifts me up on my bad days.”

Adopt a child in your heart

It’s all about mindset

“Our priority as a teen foster family is to support family reunification,” says Rachel Garret. “It is a unique and emotional experience to show up to unconditionally love someone else’s children as our own for however long is needed, knowing there is an unknown day in the future in which our family will be asked to switch roles.”

To Rachel and her husband Carson, family is more than blood, legalities, and genetics. That’s why they have stayed connected to teens even after they reunify with their families.

“I love these kids fiercely. I live for the daily check-ins and updates. We still have them over weekly and we will go above and beyond for them and their families. It is powerful to witness the relationships our seven and four-year-olds have nurtured endearing “older siblings”- type relationships over the years.”

Rachel also seeks to create lasting, caring connections among other teens through her group  Common Thread. She holds monthly safe and supportive activities to support teens’ healing journeys.

In summary, foster families say managing your expectations and having a realistic mindset will help you weather the emotional ups and downs in your fostering journey.

Questions about foster parenting or adoption in Utah?

We have a team of people near you who can answer them!