Giving up on a fairy-tale future—and finding something better

A teacher reconsiders her life plan when a new student joins her class.

August 22, 2018

Kelly and Avita Walters
Kelly Walter (left) and her daughter, Avita, on her adoption day.

Kelly Walter is a middle school teacher in South Carolina. She shared her adoption story with us.

When I was growing up, I had a fairy-tale version of my future in mind. I thought that by the time I was 25 I would have a house, be married to my prince charming, and have a bunch of little kids.

But 25 came and went! I had a home and a job I loved, but no prince.

It was about that time that when a 14-year-old girl, Avita, joined my class in January, halfway through the school year.

As I try to do with all of my students, I began building a relationship with her. She would often stick around after school, and we got in the habit of emailing about school assignments, which other students never did. I knew Avita was in foster care, but I didn’t know exactly what that meant.

That spring, I contacted our department of social services and signed up for a foster parenting orientation. I thought, if there are other kids like Avita in foster care, then I can do this! I would love to have daughter like her.

It turned out that she was thinking the same thing.

When I let Avita know that I had begun the fostering process and was considering adopting, she turned to me with the biggest smile and said, “It’s really hard, but you’d be the best mama.”

In the coming weeks, Avita started asking me probing questions about fostering and adopting. What age child did I want? What gender? Would I consider a teen?

Then she started bringing me letters asking if I would be her mom! In them she wrote that she felt safe and comfortable around me, and she told me how and why she would be a good daughter.

I shared these letters and conversations with her caseworker, worried that I might be overstepping my boundaries as her teacher. The worker seemed very happy with the bond we had created, but asked me not to commit to Avita either way.

One day after school, Avita confronted me with the question: Would I adopt her? I reminded her that there were many times she had told me—and others—that she did not want to be adopted! She said yes, that was true. Sort of. What she meant was that she only wanted to be adopted by a special person, and she felt that person was me.

Our caseworkers agreed.

Two months later, I got my foster care license. And on that day, May 12, I picked Avita up at her temporary foster home. It was a surprise—she had no idea I was coming to get her that day. I’ve never seen someone pack so quickly! We filled my car with her boxes and totes and made it home in one trip.

It was Mother’s Day weekend. Avita got me a personalized photo candle to hold a photo of her and me. It was just a selfie that we took quickly in the middle of the mall! But that candles is one of the best presents I can remember ever receiving.

On June 29, 2018, two days after Avita’s 16th birthday, we officially became mother and daughter.

It’s only been a year, but I’ve seen Avita grow and change in so many ways. She’s also tested my love on many occasions! It’s hard not to take it personally. But every time, I tell her that I am not giving up. I love her and I am not going anywhere.

I look back on my childhood fairy tale of having a home and a husband and lots of little kids running around. And I think, my life turned out even better.


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