A youth speaks his mind about aging out of care without an adoptive family
We spoke with Chris Tait, a young man who recently aged out of care, about his thoughts on permanency for waiting children and teen adoption.
How do you feel about aging out of care without having found a forever family?
I feel that there could have been more done. Right now, it really feels like the clock is ticking, and I didn’t receive enough support to prepare me for this. I’m finally going to interview for housing tomorrow, but it all feels rushed. It would have been nice to have everything worked out a few months before, instead of having to worry about all of this stuff one week before I age out of care. The housing is a single residence occupancy (SRO) building through the Broadway Youth Resource Centre. Right now I’m 50% worried and 50% excited, but I still don’t know where I’m going to be living a week from now when I turn 19.
If a family came along that wanted to adopt you as an adult, would you consider it?
Absolutely! It would be great to have that kind of foundation in my life. But one thing I’d worry about is forgetting my other family and losing touch with them. It’s really important to me that this doesn’t happen.
What do you think young people of your age want and need from a family?
I think teenagers actually need a younger family with younger parents. They need adoptive parents with balanced lifestyles who can be involved in their teens’ lives, which would let the teens connect with them more easily. Really, teens need adoptive parents who are more like older siblings, or aunts and uncles, instead of people who want to play a traditional guardian/parent role.
How does that differ from what you wanted/needed a few years ago?
When I was younger, I didn’t think so much about what I wanted in an adoptive family — all I really wanted was just the chance to live with my birth family.
Why do you think it remains important for young people to find families even after they have legally become adults?
It’s important because when you age out you still have a foundation somewhere instead of just “Chris vs The World.” Just knowing that someone has your back makes a huge difference. 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.
What things stand in the way of many young people finding a forever family before they age out of care?
It’s much harder to find people who understand teens. We need people we can connect to on a personal level, not just authority figures — we get enough of that in school. A few years ago I was almost adopted with my siblings, but after two months I was sent away. She [the Mom] actually tried to send me to my room when I was about to turn 17, and I already had quite a bit more life experience than the average 16-year-old. People have to realize that teens are tougher to handle than little kids, especially if you have no experience with them. When you adopt a younger kid and watch him grow up, you get the chance to grow your parenting skills with them. But when you adopt a teen, you’ve got a teen from Day 1. You can’t deal with them the same as you would with younger kids.
What do you think the government should do to help older kids find families?
The biggest problem is that not enough teens are even aware of the possibility that they can still be adopted. I really wish that youth got invited to more meetings like the [AFABC Youth] Speak Out Group, and that there was more outreach and more examples of youth speaking to youth. Let’s be honest, we’re about 10 times more likely to listen to someone our own age than an adult. If you really want us to listen, involve celebrities. Get Angelina Jolie to film something for foster kids to watch. We all know her, we all trust her, and she’s adopted more kids than anyone else I’ve ever heard of.
What would you say to people who suggest that focusing on teen and adult adoption would not be a wise use of government funds?
It’s simple — some people can’t have biological children and others don’t want biological children, but many want to provide a supportive home to kids who otherwise wouldn’t have one. Why would anyone try to stand in the way of that, or minimize our chances?
What would you do to improve teen adoption?
I’d make adoptive parents do training sessions with youth as the instructors. I think this one thing would be great for all adopted kids, but would be especially good to improve the chances of teens being adopted, and more importantly I think that once they’re adopted there would be a better chance of longterm success.
What do you imagine your forever family to be like?
It would be cool to get someone who could do the same activities as me and share in my daily life activities. I’d love someone with a big musical background because I’ve always wanted to learn about other cultures, and I love to do that through music. Oh, and they should be great cooks! The point is that, at my age, I need someone who doesn’t need to act like a guardian; I need someone who can act like a parent where we can talk openly instead of just focusing on setting rules.The best parenting doesn’t come from a book.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Yeah! Promote Lacey [of the Youth Speak Out Group] because she’s fantastic, and hire me as her secretary because she’s way overworked!