Jacob’s Journey To a Safe and Loving Family
In many ways, Jacob is a typical 13-year-old who loves playing football and video games, and really likes math in school. But behind his big blue eyes are the traumatic memories of the abuse he experienced in the home of his birth mother and her boyfriend. Until the age of 9, Jacob suffered the kinds of physical and emotional abuse that is horrifying to hear about. He often went without food. He was sexually molested. He was beaten and put in a dog crate.
Jacob had no idea what it’s like to live in a safe, loving family—something we believe every child deserves.
Upon his rescue from the abuse by Social Services, Jacob was placed in foster care. Other biological family members, including his father, refused to care for him. And so he lived with little permanence and fading optimism over the next three years, moving among several foster homes as he struggled to live a life shadowed by his abuse and neglect. Even as Jacob came to embrace the idea of adoption, his hopes of finding a family dwindled with every birthday.
When CHS met Jacob, he had begun to consider the reality of turning 18 and “aging
out” of foster care without a family of his own—no one to share Thanksgiving with, no
one to call on Mother’s Day, no one to help him fulfill his dream to go to college, no
one to hug him on his wedding day.
Meanwhile, CHS met John and Maria, who were open to adopting a teenager. They were carefully screened. They went through a 6-week training course to learn about parenting a child with a history of abuse and neglect. They worked with us to determine what they were able to handle as parents. Then they waited. And while they waited, Jacob was also waiting.
Within a year of their first meeting over burgers at Five Guys, John, Maria, and Jacob
made it official—giving Jacob the permanent safe and loving family he had never
known, still hoped for, and thought might never be his.
Today Jacob’s journey continues. Signatures on adoption paperwork don’t erase the years of hurt and trauma Jacob has experienced. He depends on the love and support of his parents to get through every day. And both Jacob and his parents rely on the ongoing expertise and support of CHS to help them build bridges to recovery, by providing counseling, advocating for Jacob at school, and connecting them with other adoptive families and teens who have similar experiences.
Finding Jacob a family of his own was only the beginning for CHS. Our goal now is to help John, Maria, and Jacob create a strong forever family—so they can look forward to celebrating a lifetime of Thanksgiving dinners, Mother’s Day phone calls, and personal milestones together.
Michael’s Hope: Lost and Found
At age 9, Michael was desperate for a new hope. He was living in atrocious conditions—a home
littered with garbage, without reliable electricity or heat, and often without enough food to eat. His father was a bully who severely abused and sexually molested him. Every day was a nightmare, from which it seemed there was no hope of escape.
Once rescued from his abusive home and placed in foster care, Michael thought he would get the second chance he was hoping for. Unfortunately, his hopes continued to fade. As is common, his traumatic background prompted challenging behaviors foster families found difficult to manage. He was shuffled to four homes over the next three years. And in one of those homes, old nightmares returned—he was again victimized by his foster parents. They withheld food. They degraded him. They put up Christmas stockings for their biological children, but not for him.
When CHS met 13-year-old Michael, he had lost hope—his hope of finding a safe, loving family. It was devastating. He didn’t bother with hygiene. He didn’t care about school. He didn’t believe he had a future.
Luckily for Michael, CHS had an adoptive family who was waiting just for him, or so it would seem. Curtis and Michelle were empty-nesters who had time and love to give. They had been through the tough teenage years with three sons, and were ready to commit their strength and patience to getting Michael through those years. They accepted the challenge in hopes of giving this boy the family—and the future—he deserved.
With Curtis and Michelle, and support from CHS, Michael began to blossom. They parented through his trauma. They parented through his behaviors. They parented through to that place in his heart where hope still lived—and he learned to believe in it once again.
Today Michael is a healthy, active 16-year-old who loves being a “typical” teenager. He plays football. He does well in school. And he has dreams for his future—a future with the family he always hoped for.
Finding Hope for Shane and Emily
One Friday night, Shane and his sister Emily were picked up by police for rummaging
through a dumpster. Just 11 and 9 at the time, they were looking for something to quiet the ache they knew all too well—hunger. But Shane and Emily weren’t homeless. They had two parents and a house to come home to.
From the outside, Shane and Emily’s life looked normal. But behind closed doors, they lived in fear. Their father was angry and abusive. He refused to feed them when he believed they were bad—which was most of the time. He locked them in their rooms for hours. And when he was really angry, he started throwing things—from chairs to punches.
After their abuse was reported, their mother was offered the chance to make a new life with the children. When she didn’t take it, Shane and Emily entered foster care. Though they had a new place to live, they were now “parentless.”
Due to the severe abuse, Shane and Emily required intensive care for their behavioral and psychological issues in a residential treatment center. As they healed, they grew older. And as they grew older, they developed new fears. They were afraid the institution would be their future. They feared no one would want to adopt a pair of traumatized teens. And they were
terrified of being separated.
When CHS met Shane and Emily, they were already 15 and 13 and had lost hope they would find a new family together. What they needed was a safe, stable home in which they could build a new future. But they were keenly aware time was running out.
That’s when Abigail contacted CHS to explore becoming an adoptive parent. A single, middle-aged woman, she had never married or had children. She lived a simple, quiet life—maybe too quiet. And that would soon change. She was the perfect match for Shane and Emily. She gave
them the patience and support they needed to thrive. As their trust grew, so did their love. And together they created a new future and a new family—for life.
With Abigail by their side, Shane and Emily are still working through their issues and are doing well today. They are good students. They have friends. And they have hope for their future. In fact, their Friday nights look different, too. Recently Shane and Abigail went to a high school
football game to watch Emily cheer in her first game. Emily did great! And Shane? His mom bought him four hot dogs.
Jada’s Story: System Failure
Meet Jada. She is just one of the 700 children who each year ages out of foster care in Virginia, where the system’s tragic failure to secure permanency for foster youth is rated worst in the nation.
Jada’s story began when she entered foster care as a toddler. Her parents and grandmother were arrested for drugs, and Jada’s safety was at risk. She was shuffled among four different foster homes before she was adopted at age 6. With her adoption came hope for a future built on love and trust, rather than the loss and abandonment with which she had become familiar.
Unfortunately, Jada’s adoptive home did not provide the safety and stability she needed. Her mother was physically abusive. Yet despite her difficult home life, Jada succeeded in school.
She was a good student. She participated in tennis and and track. She aspired to join the drama club. After her mother kicked her out of the house at age 14, Jada entered foster care for the second time in her young life. She was forced to leave behind her school, her friends, and everything she felt was good. It was life-changing.
With her intense despair, and as a result of Jada’s traumatic background, her life began a severe downward spiral over the next four years. She was hospitalized four times for threatening to harm herself. She lived in three different youth shelters and four different group treatment facilities. And she was placed in 10 different foster homes. That’s 17 moves in the four years leading up to her 18th birthday.
When Jada turned 18 and had to leave foster care, she had nothing. She had no support system. She had no confidence or self-esteem. She had no home, no job, and no money. Life was about day-to-day survival. For a while, Jada relied on friends. But eventually they could no longer help her. That’s when things went from bad to worse. Jada was homeless. She was sexually assaulted. She got pregnant, and became a teen mom to an infant who was now also at risk.
The system failed Jada. The state “housed” her as a teenager for four years, and then let her go—to succeed or fail on her own. There was no regard for the trauma she suffered both in and out of the system. There was no consideration for the fact that even though she was 18, she was emotionally and behaviorally only half that age. Because of the loss, abandonment, and abuse, she was like a 9-year-old in an 18-year-old’s body. What chance did she have?
It’s no surprise many teens who age out of foster care do not succeed. Most end up as a sad statistic. Just like Jada.