Teens! Ah, I love teens! They are real, transparent, vulnerable, funny, and energetic. They can be extremely motivated and can make a huge difference in the world! They can also have a lack of motivation and can be involved in delinquency, drugs, sexual activity, and gang activity. So why adopt a teen? Consider this: just about 30,000 foster youth “age out” of the foster care system every year, leaving them more at risk for homelessness, incarceration, and unemployment. An 18-year-old who does not get adopted and has no permanent family is at greater risk for instability in society. Older teens need to be prepared for independent living and need to know that they have someone to turn to when times get tough. What’s the solution? Adopt a teen before he ages out of the system! So, what is the process and how long does it take?
Adopting a teen is easier than it seems.
When we talk about adoption, we generally think about cute and cuddly infants. And therefore, most people request infants. However, teens need homes too! The fact is, the longer a teen stays in foster care, the more foster homes that teen will reside in, bouncing from one home to another, up to 8, 9, or 10 homes before turning 18 years old. What they need is one person who will make a commitment to provide a loving, permanent home, no matter what happens. They just want someone to want them, to love them, to provide a real family. The issue is not that it takes a long time to adopt a teen, the issue is that not many people consider adopting teens. Adoption is the answer! While everyone else is pursuing infants, a hidden gem of an adolescent may be there waiting.
Adopting a teen is easier if you are related to the teen. Kinship adoptions are becoming more and more common. Kinship adoption is when grandparents, uncles, aunts, or cousins take in their own blood relatives to become a part of their immediate family. The minimum time in most states to adopt a teen is about three months depending on paperwork, background checks, and home inspections, etc. Kinship adoption is sometimes preferable because family members are not strangers. They know one another, have eaten in one another’s homes, and are familiar with one another’s culture. It’s a natural transition.
Fictive Kin Adoptions
Finally, there is a trend of teachers, coaches, youth pastors, and others adopting teens they already know and have a relationship with. This is called fictive kin adoption. This is easy because there is already a prior relationship built. The time for this type of adoption is a minimum of six months.
Foster Care Adoption
Lastly, there is the option of foster care adoption. The time is about six months that a foster youth will have to spend in your home before you will be allowed to adopt him or her. The transition is easy because you have already developed a relationship as a foster parent. Check your state’s requirements.
Whichever route you choose, please know that you are doing a great thing! Teens can be incredibly frustrating at times, but they can also make great contributions to society. All they need is one person to nudge them in the right direction. Let’s be honest, the number one reason most people avoid teens is because they are afraid of them. Don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you from doing what is right! If you have the opportunity to make a difference in the life of a teen, do it! It only takes one person to change a life!
Derek Williams is an adoption social worker and has been in the field of child welfare and behavioral health since 2006, where he has assisted families in their adoption journeys. He and his wife started their own adoption journey in 1993 and have 8 children, 6 of whom are adopted. His adopted children are all different ethnicities, including East Indian, Jamaican, and Native American. He loves traveling with his family and is an avid NY Mets fan! Foster care and adoption is a passion and calling for Derek and he is pleased to share his experiences with others who are like-minded.