More than 400,000 children in the U.S. are in foster care, and more than a quarter of them are waiting for a family to permanently adopt them. But many of them will enter their young adult life with no family support. Every year and across the nation, an average of 26,000 youth “age out” of the foster care system when they turn 18. Over half of them lack a high school diploma, and within two years, 30 percent experience homelessness or incarceration. More than half of the young women will have children who also enter the foster care system—and the cycle continues.
Dee Dee’s story is different. She experienced years of instability and turmoil while living with relatives struggling with addiction before she entered the foster care system when she was 12. Though relieved to be getting help, it was difficult to be in a group home and other placements for the next three years. “The most difficult thing about foster care,” Dee Dee said, “is hopping from place to place, knowing that each place is temporary.”
Meanwhile, Dave and Linda applied to be foster parents. Their youngest son had entered college and Linda, in fact, had a long-time desire to be a foster parent. Because Dee Dee’s mother had lost parental rights, she was eligible for adoption. She was an energetic teenager who had been through a lot, but no matter the challenges for them all, the couple quickly decided to adopt Dee Dee.
At 15, Dee Dee had never experienced what she now calls “the kind of love that comes from a family.” Having a father figure in Dave was also a first for her. Adjustments to her new life took time. But now 17, she is happy and thriving, and will never be the same because Dave and Linda took a chance on an older teen, offering her a family of her own.
“Not every foster kid is an angel because of what they have been through,” Dee Dee said. “But love, patience, and helping them as much as possible is what they need.” Giving Dee Dee a forever family to love and support her now and later as an adult is a gift Dave and Linda will never regret—for Dee Dee is also a gift to them.
Bethany Christian Services has launched the N.O.W. (No One Without) campaign to spread awareness about the needs of youth in foster care and move people to action on their behalf. If you’d like to know more about the campaign or would like to take the next step to become an adoptive family, please visit www.bethany.org/NOW or call 1.800.BETHANY.