Teens need families

Thousands of teens in foster care are looking for the love, support, and encouragement that families provide throughout their lives—not just until they turn 18

  • Aeron, age 17. To teens waiting for families, I say: Stay strong and never give up, because one day you’ll be in the loving arms you deserve.
  • Amone, age 19. I want a happy, loving family that takes good care of me and treats me just like their own child. View profile.
  • Angel, age 16. What does adoption mean to me? It means happiness. View profile.
  • Bryon, age 14. I want to have a mom and a dad who will support me while I play sports and let me have a pet. View profile.
  • Cherish, age 16. I’ve never had a birthday party. I want a family that will celebrate my birthday with me. View profile.
  • Coyoete, age 17. I am kind and special. I want to be part of a family. View profile.
  • Dakota, age 15. I am hoping for a family that loves their kids and looks out for each other. View profile.
  • David, age 15. Family is defined by love, not by blood.
  • Dieunelson, age 16. I want a family that will stick with me through good times and bad times. View profile.
  • Eric, age 16. I want a nice family that will help me for the rest of my life. View profile.
  • Jada, age 16. I’m a kindhearted girl who has experienced a lot in my life, but I will not let that affect who I will be in my future. View profile.
  • Javaris (JT), age 16. Being adopted is having a sense of belonging. I will know it when I’ve met the right family.
  • J'mere, age 17. I would like a family that is active and likes to do fun things—like going to Six Flags! View profile.
  • Jonathan, age 14. I want families to know that I am a very caring person and always willing to help. View profile.
  • Kimberly, age 13. Adoption means going into a home with a nice family who will love and care for me. View profile.
  • Kyla, age 16. Adoption means having a family that wants to take care of you. View profile.
  • Lance, age 16. I don’t care about their race, gender, or makeup. I just want a family who will love me. View profile.
  • Leonard (Lenny), age 16. I want a family to know I’m a fun kid! I want to learn things like how to cook, especially sweet potatoes! View profile.
  • Robert, age 13. I really want a family that I can be with every day and parents who love me. View profile.
  • Samuel (Sam), age 16. I want families to know that I’m nice, kind, and helpful. View profile.
  • Sasha, age 17. I want a family that understands I am going to make mistakes and will help me learn from them. View profile.
  • Shane, age 15. I know my family is out there, we just haven’t met yet.
  • Tristen, age 16. I want families to know that I am a nature lover, that I like having friends, and that I want to live in Australia someday. View profile.
  • Will, age 17. Being adopted would mean having someone to support me, be patient with me, and show me unconditional love. View profile.
  • Xzavien, age 16. Having a family means that there is someone who loves me and is there to help me. Recently adopted.
  • Yelixza, age 15. I’m funny, honest, appreciative, super loving, and always giving hugs. View profile.
 

This year, more than 20,000 young people will leave foster care without a family. Many of them will not have anyone they can call for help, for advice, for a ride when their car breaks down.

It’s disturbing, but probably not surprising, that outcomes for youth who age out of foster care are often poor. Studies show that they are at increased risk for homelessness, young parenthood, low educational attainment, high unemployment rates, and other adverse adult outcomes.

The good news is that it only takes one person to improve these odds for a young person. If you think that person might be you, read on!

Why should I adopt a teen? Are they really looking for a family?

As we all know, you never outgrow the need for a family. Everyone needs a sense of belonging.

Through adoption, older children are connected to a family that can provide a sense of stability, lasting connections, and guidance with important life tasks—including enrolling in higher education, finding stable housing, securing employment, and establishing healthy relationships.

Do teens have a say in their adoption? How do I know if a teen wants to be adopted?

Yes! Almost every state has a requirement that youth of a certain age provide consent to be adopted. The age varies by state. Fourteen is the most common consent age, but many states require youth as young as ten to consent to adoption. Many parents have told us that adopting a teen has the added reward of knowing that not only did you choose them to be their child, they chose you to be their parents.

We really want to watch a child grow up and share important milestones with them—like their first steps.

You may not be there when they lose their first tooth or take the training wheels off their bike for the first time, but there are plenty of firsts to experience with a teen—first date, learning to drive, first job interview.

And, while teens have a lot to learn from you, they’ll teach you a lot too.

 

Image from Atlantic magazine ad
Parents and teens talk about the rewards of adoption and what they’ve learned in this Atlantic magazine feature.

What kind of support will our family get after adopting a teen?

A lot!

Many states and organizations provide financial assistance to children who are in foster care or who were adopted. Youth who were adopted from the foster care system when they are 16 or older may be able to access Education and Training Vouchers (ETV) of up to $5,000 per year. Those who were adopted from foster care when they are 13 or older are more likely to qualify for federal financial student aid because they don’t have to count family income when applying.

When it comes to medical and mental health benefits, qualifying families may receive federally funded monthly maintenance payments, medical assistance, and other support, often until a child turns 18 or 21, depending on the state where they live.

Learn more about educational assistance and medical and mental health benefits at the Child Welfare Information Gateway website.

I’m not ready to commit. Are there other ways to help?

Yes! Spending time with a teen in your community—as a mentor, Big Brother or Big Sister, CASA volunteer, or tutor at your local library or community center—is not only a great way to help a teen, it could help you decide whether fostering or adopting an older child is right for you.

There are many ways you can help, and at least one child who will be glad you did.

Things to do next:

 

Sources of foster care statistics:

 


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