Guest post by Kimberly Golden, a parent of two biological children and one adoptive son in North Florida.
Two years ago my family finalized the adoption of our now 20-year-old son, Terry.
We were not a foster family. We had never fostered children before, never taken a class, never even considered fostering or adopting a child into our family, let alone an 18-year-old! We truly thought our family was complete just the way it was with our little brick house, two kids, three dogs and a partridge in a pear tree. But it was at the cusp of this decision that I realized … LIFE BEGINS AT THE END OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE!
I am an Educational Consultant with a children’s book company where I did a charity book fair at a local vacation resort. The resort selected Anchorage Children’s Home as the recipient of the free books from the fair. I went to meet with the staff at the facility to discuss their needs to place the book order and during my meeting the Administrative Assistant had been telling me about this kid who had lived there off and on for many years and was pretty much a permanent fixture at the group home called Hidle House, a place I’d never heard of. She told me how he was 17 and applying for a job at Sonic and how he practiced his roller skating on the basketball court every day, just in case he got the job. She told me how his Guardian ad Litem had just helped him purchase a bicycle so he can ride it to and from work (that bicycle sits in my garage as we speak and we still use it to take family rides around the neighborhood!).
Then she told me something I would never, ever forget. She told me he was about to age out of foster care and would be put out into the world … alone. Those words stung.
My colleague and I took our tour of the facility and I saw his room, all neat and clean, positive and encouraging words posted on his door in his handwriting. (Boy was the wool pulled over my eyes! You should see his room now! But I digress.)
As the tour was wrapping up, a counselor came through with this kid, smiling from ear to ear, who was well-spoken and friendly. This boy told us he was heading out to do Meals on Wheels with the counselor. Told us he had been there for a long time and enjoyed his outings. I only spoke to him briefly, probably 30 seconds or less, but it may as well have been a lifetime. I was IN LOVE WITH THIS KID!
I left the building and burst into tears. I had left my heart with this child. I called my husband from my car and we briefly spoke about his situation. Later that night at the dinner table we discussed in detail Terry’s options, which were limited and not very appealing.
After a short discussion my husband said, “Well, who do we call?” I immediately sent an email to Hidle House. We met Terry in July, had several weekly visits and weekend visits, he moved into our home in September and we formally adopted him in November.
I’ll never forget the day Pauline brought him to my house to officially move in. I was terrified. I was NERVOUS! What about my kids? What if he runs away? What if … what if … what if …
The challenges came early on as Terry was testing us at every turn. He wanted to prove to us that we would not adopt him, that we were not faithful to our word. That we were just like every other person he had ever dealt with. That our promises were empty. And given his history, being in foster care since he was age 10, who could blame him? To the final hour he was testing us, but we didn’t judge him by his past; he didn’t live there anymore. He lived with us, in our home with a fresh, new start. And I knew even in the darkest hour, after all it was only 60 minutes, this too shall pass. And you know what? It did! Terry’s adoption was finalized on November 2, 2011.
Terry and I had our share of butting heads. Were there growing pains? Absolutely! Was it easy? Certainly NOT! Would I do it all over again? YOU BETCHA! In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. With every challenge came the chance to reach him.
We spent a year in therapy. A therapist came to our home and sat in our living room. Terry and I sat side by side, hour after hour, week after week until he learned to trust and he started to believe that HE was worthy of love. It took time and patience ON BOTH OUR PARTS. I did a lot of forgiving, but you know what? SO … DID … HE! We are all a little broken, and that’s okay.
I went from being the mother of a 9 year old and 4 year old to jumping into a pot of boiling water with a 17 year old, and not just any 17 year old, a teenager no one else wanted; one who came with baggage. But I loved him enough to help him unpack it piece by piece.
I have been blessed with an AMAZING kid. One who loves unconditionally, who would jump into a lake of fire for me. One who lives to please, one who gives with his whole heart.
And please don’t misunderstand; he’s not perfect. He’s still a kid who screws up and does stupid kid stuff – the kind of stuff WE ALL DID! But I’m so glad he does, it’s what he’s supposed to be doing! Let’s face it, kids screw up. And our jobs as parents are to CORRECT THEM, FORGIVE THEM, ACCEPT THEM and LOVE THEM!
Our family just made the trip out to San Antonio, Texas where we attended Terry’s graduation from Basic Military Training from the United States Air Force. I am so proud of the man he has become. He has overcome obstacles and beaten statistics and proven that he is a survivor. But even more, he has shown that EVERYONE IS WORTHY OF LOVE and that HE is WORTHY OF LOVE and that all of the trials he went through paid off for him.
In the words of Shel Silverstein …
Listen to the mustn’ts child,
Listen to the don’ts.
Listen to the shouldn’ts,
Listen to the never- haves…
Then listen close to me.
Anything can happen child….
Anything can be.
For more information about adoption and children available for adoption in Florida, visit www.adoptflorida.org or call 1-800-962-3678.