When most people think about adoption, they think about babies. The truth is, there are hundreds of British Columbian teens who are also waiting for a permanent family.
In 2020, almost 450 youth aged out of foster care. This means that 450 youth were forced to navigate adulthood without the support of a family to lean on. 450 youth with no one to walk them down the aisle or visit for the holidays.
Until recently, it was uncommon for teens to be placed for adoption. Today, we recognize that all kids do best when they are part of a loving, stable family. Here are ten facts about teen adoption that may surprise you.
1. Most teens WANT to be adopted.
Social worker Anne Melcombe once asked a group of former foster kids if they would have liked to have been adopted. One man, 23 years old, 280 lbs, and covered in tattoos, held up his hand and said, “You bet. I still would!”
There is a misconception that teens don’t want to be adopted. Oftentimes, a teen’s initial disinterest in being adopted comes from a fear of losing their current community or of their placement not working out. The success that Anne has in finding families for teens convinces her that not only do teens want to be adopted, there are also families who want to adopt them.
2. Teens in foster care aren’t there because they’ve done something “wrong.”
“Too often people assume that teens in foster care are monsters and that they are in care because they’ve done something wrong, which is not the case,“ Anne says. The teens in care aren’t bad kids, they’ve just had bad things happen to them–through no fault of their own.
3. Unconventional families can be a GREAT fit for teens.
Single parents, older parents, two unrelated people who live together, LGBTQ2+ families, people who live in apartments or in the middle of nowhere can all be great fits for teens from care. It doesn’t matter what type of family unit you have, as long as you are ready to bring unwavering love, commitment, and patience to your adoption journey.
4. Teens get to be a part of the decision-making process, too!
All teens 12 and over must legally consent to an adoption in BC. This means that your teen is an active part of the decision-making process. While it may not always feel like your teen wants to be a part of your family, it is important to remember that every teen who is adopted has committed to becoming a part of the family, even if it doesn’t always feel like it. And once they’re a part of your family, teens get to contribute to the bonding process in a meaningful, intentional way. Says adoptive parent Rebecca N., “Tweens and teens can engage in support and therapies in a pretty amazing, productive way.”
5. There are still plenty of “firsts” you can experience with a teen.
You may not experience your child’s first steps or first words, but the teen years are still full of firsts: the first job, first driving lesson, first tattoo (maybe!). Plus, all the “firsts” of new activities and traditions together as a family. Says Rebecca N., “There is so much potential for creativity, athleticism, musicality, and other talents given the opportunity to explore those endeavours. We are constantly amazed by what our teen is capable of accomplishing.”
6. Adults who work with young people are often great candidates to adopt a teen.
Teen adoption can be a great choice for prospective parents who already have experience working with young people. Adoptive mom Rebecca N. says that her background as a sexual health nurse allowed her to dive into conversations about health and safety much more easily. Rebecca’s teen echoes this: “Something that makes a good adoptive parent for a teen is that you feel you can talk about things you’re comfortable with sharing.” While certainly not a requirement for pursuing a teen adoption, having a background in working with tweens and teens can make prospective adoptive parents a great fit for teen adoption.
7. Personality and likes/dislikes factor in when it comes to teen placements.
If you’re active hikers and campers, you have a better chance of matching with a teen who likes the outdoors. Prefer to stay close to home? There’s a homebody out there waiting for a family like yours.
8. There’s a lot of financial assistance available for families adopting a teen.
Did you know BC offers a tuition waiver program at all 25 publicly funded post-secondary institutions, and most teen adoptees are eligible for the waiver? Beyond the waiver, lots of scholarships and bursaries are also available.
9. Parental leave covers teen adoption, too!
Parental leave isn’t just for parents of newborns. Standard parental benefits can be paid for 35 weeks after a child is placed for the purpose of adoption. Two parents can share the 35 weeks of standard parental benefits. For more information, visit the Government of Canada website, or contact your local Services Canada office.
10. Teens are never too old for a forever family.
If a family came along that wanted to adopt you as an adult, would you consider it? For Chris, the answer is an unequivocal yes. “Right now, if I don’t get housing or I lose it at some point in the future, I don’t know that there’s anyone I can really turn to for help,” adds Chris.
Did you know there are routes to permanency for teens who have aged out of care in BC? Youth from foster care or adult step-children who are 19 or older can be adopted by other adults who supported them before they turned 19. And families who come together after a youth turns 19 can participate in a moral adoption.
To learn more about adoption in BC, visit bcadoption.com.