*All names are indicated by a single letter for privacy purposes.
In the fall of 2019, seventeen-year-old K was eight months pregnant and desperate to find a foster home where she and her baby would be safe to start their life together. She had recently left an unhealthy foster home and was temporarily in a group home, but that wasn’t where she wanted to bring her son after his birth.
A & B already had four children, two biological daughters and two young adopted sons, but they had seen the lack of homes for youth in the system, and felt a pull in her heart to open their life to someone in that way.
The week of Thanksgiving, K & A met for the first time. K was scared. She had already been through a lot, and she didn’t want another family she couldn’t trust. She decided to be honest about everything she had been through, to see if A would be scared off. When she was done telling her story, A told K she still wanted K because everyone deserves to be loved.
“That changed my mind,” K says. “I didn’t want a second family. I missed my biological family. I felt lost. [They] helped replace a lot of that.”
K was uncomfortable in A & B’s home at first. Her previous foster experiences had taught her to be wary of breaking family rules. She asked permission to get a drink of water or a snack. It took time to convince her that she could treat their home as her own. And she was worried about becoming a mother. K had never been close with her biological mother or had much guidance in mothering. She was afraid that she wouldn’t love her son the way she loved her little nephew and even more afraid that since she was in the system, her son would end up in the system, too. A did her best to reassure K, but the doubts lingered.
Three weeks later, K’s son, T, was born. “I fell in love right away,” K says. “I think A fell in love, too. She was there all the way through. She painted my toes the night before. Everything I needed was there.”
A continued to be there after the birth, too, helping K through the infant’s early weeks and staying with her as she battled postpartum depression.
But still, trust wasn’t easy. After all she had been through, K believed that no one would look out for her except herself. One night, when some family members suggested that A + B were only helping her because they wanted to take her baby from her, she confronted A angrily. She yelled her questions, and both women cried. “I thought about leaving,” K says, ”But we always talked. So after we talked for a couple of hours, it made more sense. We hugged it out and both apologized. I felt a sense of peace and had clarity. [Mistrust] had just been my mindset since I was fifteen.”
That night was a turning point for K, to discover that someone would love her just for her and not to get something from her.
“The one thing I wish that everyone knew about youth in foster care,” K says, “is that we are people, too. The world tends to forget about us. We are tired, stressed, scared, and overwhelmed for what is next. We want…to be cared about and shown that we matter. We want to feel like we belong somewhere after years of not belonging anywhere.”
A month after her son’s birth, K got a job, completed her GED, and got her driver’s permit. With A & B providing childcare she could trust, K was able to go to work and move steadily toward her goals. B took her to practice driving and helped her set a budget. She saved her money and was able to eventually afford an apartment and even to buy a used car.
In July of 2020, K turned eighteen and moved out of her foster home and into her own apartment. The years since have not been easy, but today K has a job and a home and is finishing up her first year of college. She’s the first in her family to do so.
Most importantly, K continues to mother her son, who is not and has never been a part of the foster care system. When people ask A how K is doing, she always tells them what a great mom K is, how she prioritizes him and cares for him and is completely invested in his life. “She has stepped in and mothered [T] in a way that she wasn’t mothered. God has awakened motherhood and so much more in her – perseverance, courage, patience, and love.”
All children — especially youth in foster care — need and deserve a loving family with no expiration date. Yet, in the United States, about 20,000 youth exit foster care each year and are left to fend for themselves. Are you interested in learning more about becoming a mentor for a child or older youth in care? Click here!
Written By: Deborah Dunlevy