Adopting a teen means being “someone to stand by them”

Amy Murray has a plan, should she ever be lucky enough to win big in the lottery.

“I’d buy a big piece of land and build homes for all of them,” she says of older children who remain in foster care, waiting to be adopted. “They are at a huge disadvantage. When these kids go through what they go through, they trust no one. Sometimes they don’t even know how to articulate what has happened to them.”

In May, Amy formally adopted one of those young people.

Skylar, now 13, had a long history in foster care, Amy says. At the age of six, she had been removed from her mother’s home, when the environment became unsafe, and placed in foster care. She then lived with her birth father and his girlfriend until that arrangement became unsafe, which led to her being moved to a number of foster homes.

Amy learned to know Skylar through a friend.

“I met Skylar when I went with my friend, who had her younger brother and sister, to a sibling visit,” Amy explains. “We wanted to make sure she had as much time with the siblings as possible so we often picked her up on weekends for visits. She was about to be moved to yet another foster home, though my friends were considering adopting her with her siblings but wanted to wait until parental rights were terminated. I didn’t want to see her go to another stranger’s house, so I said she could stay with me until that was all figured out.”

Skylar eventually moved in with Amy’s friends, but after two months, it was evident the new arrangement was not working. She again went to a foster home.

“Eventually, she wound up back with county children and youth services, whose staff told me that the only place she had ever done well is with me. They asked if I would take her.”

Amy insisted on changes that included transitioning her case to Diakon Adoption & Foster Care. Then she had a frank conversation with the teen that set up their future as a family.

“She told me she … wanted to stay with me,” Amy explains. “‘Then I am going to adopt you,’ I said.”

Part of Amy’s parenting philosophy—she has raised a son and daughter born to her—is that parents equip their kids with a “toolbox” to help them handle what comes along in life.

“Skylar thought there was something wrong with her,” Amy says. “I told her, ‘There’s nothing wrong with you. You just didn’t get all the tools you need.’ Now we’re playing catch-up.”

Although Skylar wanted to be with Amy, completely trusting her new mother took some time. She also had to learn to socialize with other kids her age. Now she is making great friends and doing well in school, Amy says. Her trauma therapy continues and she is healing from the problematic issues of her past.

“These older kids learn to survive by detaching, by shielding their feelings, by being numb,” Amy says. “You have to build trust and teach them they are safe. It’s a discovery process for them and when they fully realize it, they are so grateful.”

Amy is grateful as well to be able to provide a home for at least one young teen.

“I would be happy to share my experience with other people who might just want to talk to someone who has been through it,” she says. “These kids are not permanently damaged, but they do need someone to stand by them.”

Amy
Diakon Adoption & Foster Care parent

Editor’s note: If you are an adoptive or foster parent with teens in Pennsylvania, Diakon Adoption & Foster Care will be hosting a free pilot training program designed for both current foster, adoptive and kinship parents caring for older youth and prospective families interested in parenting teens. Please contact Casandra Dry for more information at dryc@diakon.org or (610) 682-1259.

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