Who would have thought of me as the parent of an 11- year- old with a style, attitude, mind, and personality all her very own? I’m amazed as I reflect on just how wonderfully unexpected it was for my husband and me to adopt an older child from foster care. I myself had joined every forum, read every book, and researched every webpage I could on adopting from foster care, and after that I was dead set against adopting a child older than seven. We thought an older child wouldn’t be as teachable. We thought they wouldn’t want to be walked to class or to hold our hands in public. They surely would be out of the hugging and kissing phase. Well, most, if not all, of our premonitions were happily proven wrong. My budding 5th grader loves all the attention and affection she can get from us.

She came to us as a broken, severely mislabeled child. She believed that she wasn’t loved or liked, so trying to please everyone became her coping mechanism. She believed that she was in the situation she was in because she had done something wrong. She- the child, the victim- had done nothing wrong, yet she believed she had. By the time we met our daughter (who was nine at the time) she had been in foster care for five years, lived in four different homes, two different states, and five different schools. What a life for a child! My husband and I were given a file the size of an encyclopedia in which to read about her life and about how she got into foster care. Everyone around her thought she was unbalanced, emotional, and unwilling to learn.

The unfocused child who couldn’t manage to follow a conversation, or didn’t care to, was just simply beat down by labels. Once she was allowed to become part of a family who accepted her for who she was, and who encouraged her growth and development, the labels fell away, and our opinion about adopting an older child changed. She is old enough to understand where she came from and where she is now. She is no longer bogged down by what people want her to be; instead she’s coming into her own while learning and growing each day. Now of course I cannot say that we don’t have a few challenges and hiccups along the way. Most families do and we are no exception.

As her dad and I walk her down the hall to 5th grade she grabs our hands. As we approach her classroom we tell her that we won’t go in, so we won’t embarrass her in front of her classmates and friends, and she looks at us with a smile on her face and says, “You don’t embarrass me.” She then gives us a big hug and tells us she loves us and walks into class. She has a family and is very proud of it! I know that not everyone can adopt an older child from foster care, but for those who can, I encourage you to do so. Almost all the labels have faded away. Only one remains and that is “Our Precious Daughter”!