A teenage girl adopted at 15 years old from foster care is sharing her experience with the aim of giving other teenagers like her hope for their own bright future — and to encourage potential parents to consider adopting from foster care as well.
Tawanna Brown, now 19, told WTOP News that growing up in foster care comes with a lot of difficulties. “[T]here’s a lot of unknowns,” she said. “You don’t know what’s next. You don’t know when your next placement is going to be. You don’t know if you’re going to be split up from your siblings, if you’re ever going to see your siblings again.”
Brown shared her story previously with AdoptUSKids, explaining that she and her four siblings were removed from their parents’ home when she was 12. Within three years, she and all of her siblings were adopted by her grandmother. It made a huge difference in their lives.
“We knew we were safe,” she said. “My grandmother took in all five of us so we wouldn’t be separated, and I adore her for that.”
Before the adoption, while they were still living in foster care, Brown said it was difficult to be involved at school. Between meetings and therapy sessions, there was little time for extracurriculars. But after being adopted, Brown participated in sports and clubs, and was able to thrive; she’s now attending college. “Adoption has been a blessing,” she said. “My siblings and I are pursuing our goals and aspirations.”
Brown said that having a support system in place made her life easier and empowered her to chase her dreams.
“It reassured me knowing that regardless of whatever were to happen, I had a forever home and I always had a support system to fall back on. That did not mean that everything was perfect, but it meant that I had a support system and I had a family that will work through the goods, the bads and the in-betweens together,” she explained. “And I knew that when I came home and if I needed a shoulder to cry on — or if I needed a hug or a good laugh — that I had that and I didn’t have to wonder where I was gonna get that from.”
Without that support system in place, she said it’s significantly more difficult to navigate through life, saying, “Some milestones such as graduating high school, preparing for college, filling out financial aid — a support system is needed for that.”
Brown also said she was determined to not “be another statistic.” Those who age out of foster care are much more likely to struggle; less than 10% of foster youth graduate from college, while children who age out of foster care are at a substantially higher risk of problems like homelessness, substance abuse, unemployment, criminal activity, and more.
Kamilah Bunn, CEO of the National Adoption Association, told WTOP News that people shouldn’t be afraid to consider adopting foster children. “One thing that I hear quite often from families that may be thinking about it, but gives them pause, is the myths or the misnomers that are out there about adopting from foster care,” she said. “And one of the myths is that, oh, you have to be married or you have to be a homeowner. When in reality, we’re looking for all kinds of families. All types of families can provide the love, commitment and unconditional support to a young person who is waiting to be adopted. The other thing I hear quite often is that, ‘Well, do teens really want to be adopted?’ And that’s a resounding yes.”
Now, Brown is planning on attending law school after getting her bachelor’s degree, and advocates for other foster youth. “While I wasn’t able to write how it started, I am in a position where I can navigate how I want my ending to look like,” she said. And she has advice for other foster children, like her.
“I believe in you. When my seventh-grade teacher said those words to me, it clicked. And so, I’m saying them to you. There are people in the world who see potential and greatness in you,” she said. “You are more than your traumas. You have the ability to create your own future, full of purpose and potential.”
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