This month on the Choices for Life blog, we want to feature an amazing adoption story. Mike and Lynn Koppner started as Choices for Life Therapeutic Foster Parents and recently adopted the child that they had been fostering for over a year. They never thought that becoming foster parents would lead them to adoption, but they would not change a thing. They have written a touching piece about the trials and victories throughout their journey. This is a must read story for sure.
“Our foster-to-adopt kids are tough, tough on themselves, tough on the people trying to help them, and tough on parents due to their life circumstances. Our daughter was a therapeutic foster care child for many years. We are not perfect parents; we never were. We made mistakes with our biological children, and we still make mistakes; however, we work on our mistakes, our parenting methods, our communication, and we make an effort to stay humble with each member of our family.
Children with traumatic backgrounds will always have and carry some effects of trauma with them. Our job as parents is to mitigate as much of this aftereffect of trauma as possible. For us, this means we don’t provide for other children on a full-time basis. What we have promised our daughter is that all of our love, time, and attention are hers, whether she asks for it or not. She’s not good at asking for anything for herself and this is a barrier that we deal with daily. Foster children are rarely trusting enough to tell someone what they need; be patient, it’s possible to overcome the distrust. While she may be officially a part of our family and officially adopted, she is still a child of the system, still traumatized, still not trusting, and still not willing to ask for help.
It is hard to say what the best moment in this process of becoming a family is or has been. Maybe it was the day she finally decided to be brave and accept us as permanent parents or the day we refer to in our family as “the point of no return”. That day was the day she realized that no matter what, we were not going away, not giving her up, and not giving up on her. It was also the day we realized how deeply we loved her and how much we wanted her to stay and be in our forever family. This was a turning point for all of us, but most especially for our girl. She expressed that she expected to be tossed away because that is what happens all the time when she is bad or the parents are mad at her, they take her back to the agency or call the social worker to come and get her. We knew she wanted us, that she was reaching out to us, wanting to believe that she was loved and that she could count on that love; we were all afraid, but somehow, cliché as it sounds, we realized that we were stronger together than separate.
That was the day of no return for all of us. We knew we could now move forward to the future. That was the day the adoption process started. It wasn’t talked about, but from then on, little things started to happen. Within a month, little Missy thought guardianship was okay, so we started that process. Then, one Sunday night a few weeks into the process, our girl comes into the living room and asks to turn the TV off. She then stood in front of the TV and said she had something to say. At this point, she looked at us and said, “Well, I guess you get to adopt me now”. We didn’t know what to say, so Michael said, “No, we are getting guardianship, remember?” At this point, Miss C says, “No, I want to be adopted.” We all stared at each other for a moment, then Michael jokingly asked, “Do we have a choice?” Our girl looked him straight in the eye (she’s a very serious young woman), gave him a look, and said, “No, you do not. You always tell me if something is worth doing, do it right the first time and avoid recriminations. I don’t want to take a chance on my life now, I probably won’t get another chance to be happy and normal.” It was rather confusing to everyone in our life then, including a new social worker, some state workers, the attorney, and a few family members. She went from absolute- “I would rather age out of the system and live on the streets” to “I need a family”. It is amazing what a little consistency and love can do, especially with teenagers.
That was about seven months ago, and even though we still have bumps in the road, they are fewer and sometimes less intense. Every day is a day to learn from, to listen to, and to appreciate her ability to have survived and at times to have thrived. Our young woman is talented, makes good grades, is learning to maintain long term relationships and even holds down a job now. She is confident and is making good choices in her life. We are so excited to see what she will accomplish in her life, and we are so humbled. She has a wealth of individuals that hope the best for her, others who dearly love her, and we are so fortunate that as a sixteen year old, she has chosen us to be her parents. Take all the help with your foster children, they deserve a full closet of individuals who can offer support and guidance. Reach out and ask for help when you need it, it teaches them to ask for help too.”
If you or someone you know is looking to start the foster process, please reach out to Choices for Life and we can help you on your journey!