‘Do you mind if I stay?’ I had five children under the age of five. I wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen. I believed she deserved more. But there was no other option.’ ‘We answered YES,’ says a woman who adopts a 17-year-old from foster care.

“In January of 2017, I began the process of becoming a licensed foster parent.” I wanted to be a mother, and I was tired of waiting for Mr. Right to do something about it. I assumed I’d foster for a few years, assist in reunifying some families, and finally get to say yes to forever.

Eight months later, on August 30th, 2017, I received an email informing me that I had been authorized and that there was also a sibling set. I became a first-time parent to a newborn, a one-year-old, and a two-year-old in the blink of an eye. It was terrifying, but it was also all I had hoped for and more.

Courtesy of Katie Holstein

Over the next three years, I had the opportunity to foster 16 children and assist some local families with respite for their children. Three days before Christmas in 2018, I had my first and (so far) only reunification. It was incredible, and I eagerly anticipate the day when I can do it again.

In January of this year, I received a phone call from my now-forever son. Unfortunately, his mother had a long history with the state, so when I got the call, they told me straight out that he was probably certainly going to be adopted. I said yes, nervous but excited. His early years were difficult. I had two other rowdy sons who I adored, but they were a handful all by themselves. Tiny (as we call him) spent time in the NICU and was so small that he earned the moniker when he got to us. In those early days, he battled a lot. Every day was a battle to stay healthy, with withdrawals, nutrition troubles, and weight growth issues. He handled it like the true champion that he is.

Courtesy of Katie Holstein

In the beginning, he just had a few visits with his mother, and that was it. Even though it appeared like he was hardly in care at times, it seemed to take an eternity to get us to adoption day. You’d think that having no family would make things easier, but it was ten times more difficult. Numerous legal requirements had to be satisfied for the cabinet to do their due diligence in locating his parents. Then came COVID, which brought everything to a halt for months.

We finally had our day in court on June 18. The judge awarded termination of parental rights in 15 minutes, which his worker said was the shortest hearing she had ever seen, a moment that was both heartbreaking and everything we had been waiting for for the past year. We were finally on our way to adopting a child! We arrived there three months later. Tiny had changed his name to Thomas Holstein.

Courtesy of Katie Holstein

On the other hand, Akyra, or Okra as we call her, was a complete surprise. On March 9, 2019, I received a call from my favorite social worker. ‘I know you don’t deal with teenagers, but I have this girl,’ she explained. She’s wonderful; all she and her present foster family need is a break. “How about simply for the weekend?” says the narrator.

I wanted to help, so I said yes, and it was instantaneous. She was treasured by the small children, who referred to her as their “big friend.” I loved having someone around who enjoyed Twilight and slept in late as much as I did. Over the next six months, I did provide relief for her on various occasions.

Courtesy of Katie Holstein

When her foster parents put in their notice that fall, she came to me briefly for approximately a week, I couldn’t say yes because I wasn’t ready. I regret it now, but I had five children under the age of five at the time. I just believed she deserved more than being a single mother on a limited budget with a house full of small children. They could secure her a long-term placement that she was very enthusiastic about.

I got another call in March of 2020, almost exactly a year after the first. Just a weekend of respite. Again. I’d just welcomed a new sibling, leaving me with six children under the age of six, but I couldn’t say no. There was nowhere else to go, and she was already a member of our family. Respite quickly became a stopgap measure until they could find a permanent home.

She then requested to remain until she reached the age of majority. She didn’t want to be adopted at the time because she’d had enough disappointments. She, too, didn’t want to have to relocate.

Courtesy of Katie Holstein

The intention was for her to live with me for approximately a year until she graduated and then go into independent living, a fantastic program provided by our state. It allows youths about to age out to recommit to the cabinet until they are 22 years old. They are provided with lodging, a stipend, mentors, and assistance with jobs, school, and other issues. Essentially, it permits children to make a gradual, supervised transition into maturity rather than being expected to be self-sufficient at 18.

A few months later, we were joking around about her future when she replied, ‘Have you ever considered adopting a teen?’ And the rest, as they say, is history. We said 189 days forever after coming to me for the last time. They even got us in three days before her 17th birthday, fulfilling her one wish of not having to spend another birthday in the system.

Courtesy of Katie Holstein

It’s been a few weeks, and to be honest, it still doesn’t feel genuine to her or me. She was recently invited on a trip out of state with one of her pals. She quickly reminded me that we needed to call her social worker to approve it, so I replied yes. She grinned after that.

‘That’s right,’ she said. Now you’re my mother. We’ll never have to ask anyone’s permission again.’

It’s been almost a decade since I’ve been in the system. There are 24 foster placements available.

Courtesy of Katie Holstein

If our story inspires anyone, more people will offer their homes to foster children. It’s not necessary to have everything in order. I certainly didn’t. I would have missed my kids if I had waited for the ‘perfect time.’ I guarantee you, there are children in your neighborhood who are in desperate need of a haven right now, and they won’t care whether you’re on a budget, live in a small house, aren’t married, or are still figuring out how to parent. They require willing families rather than flawless ones.

Accept older children. You’re going to hear the horror stories, and I’m not going to lie, it’s not all roses and sunshine. But let me tell you, those roses smell sweeter when you have to climb through trenches to get to them. Every child is entitled to a family. Every single one of them. Even those who claim they don’t because they’re nearly adults. They, in particular.”

Courtesy of Katie Holstein

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