It’s been a challenging four years for Matt. Not only has he had the typical challenges that teenagers face, he also entered foster care at 15, lost the grandmother who raised him at 16, and at the same age, made the decision to be adopted by a new family. At 18 years old, he’s now one of Rob and Stephanie’s family of six.
Rob and Stephanie started looking into adoption when they were first married six years ago. “I like to help out,” says Stephanie. “I work in a school and I raised a niece. Adoption seemed like the next thing to do.”
After much thought, prayer and discussion, they decided to take PRIDE (Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education) training through Bethany Christian Services, with a view to providing foster care.
“It really hit me from taking that training how many children need homes,” says Rob. Right now, more than 100,000 children in the U.S. foster care system—out of a total of 400,000—are waiting for adoptive families.
After moving through a few placements, Matt ended up at Rob and Stephanie’s home for what was to be a two or three week stay. That stretched out and the family quickly came to love Matt and wanted him to stay permanently. “You never know when that second or third family might be that one family,” says Matt.
Initially, however, neither Matt nor his grandmother wanted adoption right then; he wanted to be as loyal as he could be to his birthfamily–his grandmother whom he called mother, an older sister and her child, and a cousin who he considered a sister.
“I’m glad we got to know Matt’s grandmother,” Stephanie says. “We visited frequently and before she entered the hospital, she would come to us every once in a while. She was a very special person, who had raised all her grandchildren.”
Just before she died, his grandmother asked Matt to let Rob and Stephanie adopt him.
By this time, he was willing as well. Two months later in November of 2012, Matt was adopted by a family ready to love and support him as he completes his teen years and moves out into the adult world.
Around 23,000 teens, per year, age out of the foster care system and are on their own, without parents to offer advice and encouragement, without practical support, and without a place to call home.
Within two years, about 30 percent of youth who age out of foster care will experience homelessness or incarceration. More than half of young women will go on to have children who also enter foster care. And so the cycle continues.
That is why Bethany is dedicated to finding adoptive families for children in foster care—to break the cycle.
Bethany’s N.O.W. (No One Without) campaign is designed to overcome the challenges in matching children in foster care across the country with adoptive families—even when those families live in other states.
Two years after his adoption was finalized, Matt is doing well in his senior year and planning a career as a police officer. He’s still the caregiver he became when his grandmother fell ill.
“I take care of my little brothers—a lot!” says Matt. “That’s something I learned from my grandmother—it’s important to look out for others–and it’s just traveled over into this family.”
Stephanie recognizes that Matt became an adult early, given his childhood circumstances, and she and Rob have tried to help him have the space to enjoy just being a kid.
“You don’t know who God is going to bring into your life,” says Rob, looking back on the decision to become a foster parent.
“The PRIDE training helped me recognize that kids come from different backgrounds,” says Rob. “Some may have a harder time adjusting, but you need to look it from the kid’s point of view. They may be acting out, but it’s not directed against you. It’s based on issues from their past and they might not have the coping skills to deal with them.”
Throughout the process, Rob and Stephanie trusted in their faith to guide them.
“God has a plan,” Rob says. “You may think you know what you want, but He knows what will really work well for your family. Matt is a great kid. I don’t think it could have turned out any better.”
To learn more about how you can become a foster care or adoptive family, call 1.800.921.1818, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.