An adoption can be empowering for a teen in foster care — and rewarding for new parents

Many of the 117,000 children in the U.S. foster care system who are waiting to be adopted are teenagers eager for forever homes, and advocates want people to know they can help.

“One thing that I hear quite often from families that may be thinking about it, but gives them pause, is the myths or the misnomers that are out there about adopting from foster care,” said Kamilah Bunn, the CEO of the National Adoption Association.

“And one of the myths is that, oh, you have to be married or you have to be a homeowner. When in reality, we’re looking for all kinds of families,” she said. “All types of families can provide the love, commitment and unconditional support to a young person who is waiting to be adopted.

“The other thing I hear quite often is that, ‘Well, do teens really want to be adopted?’ And that’s a resounding yes.”

Tawanna Brown, 19, was adopted when she was 15 years old.

“Being in foster care, there’s a lot of unknowns. You don’t know what’s next. You don’t know when your next placement is going to be. You don’t know if you’re going to be split up from your siblings, if you’re ever going to see your siblings again,” Brown said.

Brown said that being adopted gave her a sense of normality and of what permanence means.

“It reassured me knowing that regardless of whatever were to happen, I had a forever home and I always had a support system to fall back on. That did not mean that everything was perfect, but it meant that I had a support system and I had a family that will work through the goods, the bads and the in-betweens together,” she said.

“And I knew that when I came home and if I needed a shoulder to cry on — or if I needed a hug or a good laugh — that I had that and I didn’t have to wonder where I was gonna get that from.”

Brown said that prior to being adopted, she didn’t know whether she had a fighting chance at going to college or succeeding.

“Some milestones such as graduating high school, preparing for college, filling out financial aid — a support system is needed for that,” Brown said.

Being adopted was empowering, she said. It allowed her to see that she could ultimately control how her story ends.

“While I wasn’t able to write how it started, I am in a position where I can navigate how I want my ending to look like,” she said.

Brown has advice for families that might be considering adopting.

“Just being open minded and willing to learn and willing to make mistakes; you’re not going to know everything. And you have to be okay with that,” Brown said. “And you have to be willing to put yourself in a position where you’re allowing yourself to be taught by the teen as well.”

For more information about adoption, or about becoming an adoptive parent to a teen or child from foster care, you can visit the Adopt US Kids website.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up