Teens need families

Thousands of teens in foster care are looking for the love, support, and encouragement that families provide throughout their lives—not just until they turn 18

We asked teens what they hope for in a family and what they want families to know about them. This is what they told us.

  • I want families to know that I am funny, that I like sports, that I am very weird—and that I got swagger! Alfonzo Age: 13
  • Adoption means having a family that will be there for me, forever.  Anthony Age: 13
  • I would like to have a nice family who will love me like their own son. Austin Age: 15
  • I want a family to know that I am not what I am on paper. Bailee Age: 16
  • I would like to have a pet and a family who would take me fishing on the weekends. Brien Age: 14
  • Adoption means having a family that is nice and we all get along. Brissa Age: 14
  • Adoption means a second chance at happiness and being a regular teen. Dashaunique Age: 16
  • I want a family who will understand what a teenager goes through and be patient with me. Destini Age: 17
  • I want families to know that I am helpful, mature, loving, responsible—and athletic! Dillon Age: 17
  • Family means having someone who loves you for who you are and doesn’t judge you. Izzy Age: 16
  • I want a family to love and support me and to help me succeed. John Age: 14
  • Adoption means having a family who can support me and care about me. Jordan Age: 17
  • I want to have a family. I want to feel like a normal kid. Josh Age: 14
  • Adoption means feeling happy and safe and finally being part of a family. Kyle Age: 17
  • I am hoping for a family who is honest and trustworthy and will go on vacations. Lesha Age: 15
  • Families should know that I am very artistic and I am a good kid. Michael Age: 16
  • Family are people who are nice and are always there. Nelly Age: 14
  • I would like a family who will love me even when I’m challenging. Randall Age: 16
  • I want a family to love me, care for me, and understand that I’ve been through a lot in my life. Rosie Age: 16
  • I want families to know that I am awesome and handsome and like to ride anything with a motor. Roy Age: 14
  • Some things are hard for me. But I am loving and creative and have set goals for my future. Sarah Age: 17
  • To be honest, I don’t care what kind of family I have; I just want a loveable one. Shamariona Age: 14
  • My friends describe me as friendly and upbeat and great to be around. Sincere Age: 17
  • I would like a family to know that I have overcome many challenges in my life. Valecia Age: 15
  • Adoption means finding a forever home with a good family—no matter the circumstances. Zachary Age: 17
  • Thank you to these courageous young people for sharing their thoughts about adoption and family.
 

Older youth who are adopted from foster care are more likely to finish high school, go to college, and be more emotionally secure than their peers who remain in or age out of foster care without a permanent family. Yet many people question teen’s need to have permanent, loving families.

Below we address some commonly asked questions about adopting older youth.

Why should we adopt a teen? They’re almost adults!

You never outgrow needing a family. Everyone needs a sense of belonging. Through adoption, older youth are connected to a family that can provide a sense of stability, lasting connections, and guidance with important life tasks—including enrolling in higher education, finding stable housing, securing employment, and establishing healthy relationships.

If I adopt a teen, will I have to pay their college tuition?

Children and youth who were adopted from foster care at age 13 or older are considered to be an independent student on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, which means they don’t have to count family income and are more likely to qualify for financial aid.

In addition, many states and organizations provide financial assistance to children and youth who are in foster care or who were adopted from the foster care system. Youth who are adopted from the foster care system at age 16 or older may be able to access Education and Training Voucher (ETV) program assistance, which provides up to $5,000 per year for youth who are in college or at an accredited vocational or technical training program.

Find more information about educational assistance at the Child Welfare Information Gateway website.

What about medical and mental health benefits?

Federal and state adoption assistance programs help adoptive parents meet children’s varied needs. Qualifying families may receive monthly maintenance payments, medical assistance, and other support, often until the child turns 18 or 21, depending on the state where they live.

Read more about available adoption assistance at the Child Welfare Information Gateway website.

Do teens have a say in their adoption? How do I know if a teen wants to be adopted?

 

Yes! Almost every state has a requirement that youth of a certain age provide consent to be adopted. The age varies by state. Fourteen is the most common consent age, but many states require youth as young as ten to consent to adoption. Learn about an adopted teen’s experiences and needs by reading the factsheet, Parenting Your Adopted Teenager, on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website.

This illustration proves a point: we NEVER outgrow the need for family!

Can I adopt an older youth after they turn 18?

Laws vary from state to state, and many have laws allowing adoption after a youth reaches the age of majority. Because we never outgrow the need for family, being adopted after the age of 18 is still beneficial for youth who have spent time in foster care. Search state adoption laws at the Child Welfare Information Gateway website.

Can a teen I am fostering to adopt get a driver’s license?

While laws vary from state to state, many states provide financial assistance to help youth in foster care or an adoptive placement take driver’s education classes and get their license. Contact your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to learn more.

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