Ellie was adopted at age 19 through the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program, in partnership with The Adoption Exchange in Utah. This is her story.
For most of my childhood, I bounced from home to home within my biological family. In the seventh grade, a teacher noticed my bruises, and child protective services visited our house for the first time. That’s when my biological family pulled me out of school. For the next four years, I was trapped in the house. I simply vanished from society … and nobody noticed. This continued until I was placed in foster care at age 16. I felt unlovable. I didn’t know why people treated me so horribly and why I didn’t have a normal life. I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. I felt like my life was already over.
More than 120,000 children are waiting to be adopted from foster care right now. They are in foster care through no fault of their own, and I can guarantee that many of them have the same feelings of hopelessness that I had. Last year, more than 20,000 kids aged out of foster care without a permanent family, putting them at risk for homelessness, unemployment, drug use or worse. As scary as it is to think about, that could have been me.
But, my world changed because of a special person named Chelsey. Chelsey was my adoption recruiter with the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program, and she was dedicated to finding the right family for me.
Chelsey is the first adult who I felt truly cared if I lived or died. More than that, she cared that I was happy. For so long, I had been surviving, and there was no time to dream about my future … but Chelsey changed that.
It didn’t happen overnight, but I eventually connected with Shawn and Matt who were volunteering at my group home. With support from Chelsey, I took a big step and asked them to foster me. That’s when I found out they were already planning to become licensed as foster parents in hopes of bringing me to their home. Shawn and Matt officially became my mom and dad in 2018.
Before I was adopted, I used to not care if I got good grades, or if an assignment was due. It’s strange how everything changed and how much more confident I became in my schoolwork just by having my parents behind me. They taught me that if I just focused, I could get caught up from the years of school that I missed. I began getting packets done in credit recovery. My grades improved, and this last year became the best year of my life. I’m proud to share that in May 2020, I graduated from high school and was even named a “Student of the Semester.”
There was a time when I didn’t think I would live past 18, but now I’m looking forward to college. My dream is to become a lawyer who represents the interests of children in foster care. Or, maybe a teacher or a therapist. Whatever I choose, I know my future will involve helping kids in foster care because I’ve been in their shoes. I know what it is like to feel hopeless … but I also know I’m worthy of unconditional love and so is every single child.
To those still waiting to be adopted: you are worthy of love and happiness … you are worthy of having hope … and you are worthy of a forever family. And to Chelsey and adoption professionals like her, thank you for advocating for kids in foster care who could be feeling even more lost during the coronavirus pandemic. Because of you, more teens will have forever families to support them, not only in school but also in becoming whoever they want to be.
Fortunately, Ellie now has a forever family to support her in school and life. But more than 50 young people age out of foster care every day in the United States. Make a gift today to help give these youth the foundation for a brighter future.