Adoption is certainly a noble undertaking. Giving a home to an unwanted child has so many rewards beyond the obvious ones. When opening up your home to someone else’s flesh and blood you provide a wonderful sense of security and “wanted-ness” to the child who otherwise could have grown up under the shadow of abuse or neglect. The rewards to the adopting parent, however, are sometimes less obvious but are there, nonetheless.
While most people’s idea of adoption starts and ends at the newborn stage, there are many children and teens out there who would also love to have a forever home. Although the odds of finding that loving family decrease with the passing of every birthday, the dream continues to live in every child’s heart.
In the foster system since age 13, Ashley figured her only options were to return home or “age out” of the system when she turned 18. She didn’t even allow herself to hope for adoption; after all, who would want to take in a teenager who’d had a difficult childhood and who would undoubtedly be burdened by the scars of her former life? She had resigned herself to her inevitable future and went about her life the best she could.
That’s when Liz stepped onto the scene. Liz, a middle school teacher, was unable to have children of her own so she turned to the idea of adoption to fill the maternal longings in her soul. Because she was in her forties and recognized where her strengths lay, she was more than willing to consider adopting a non-infant.
When she began speaking to her friends about her desire to adopt an older child, they did their best to discourage her, citing the additional challenges associated with taking on an adolescent who has had a rough start to life. No matter how they attempted to dissuade her, though, Liz knew her future included a young girl in the 12 to 16 age range who was in desperate need of the security of a full-time home.
Liz began making inquiries within the foster care system and soon learned about Ashley, a 16-year-old who had been out of her original home for three years. Once the two met, Liz was more confident than ever in her resolve to adopt a teen. And if she was not mistaken, she had just met her future daughter - over a simple meal and ice cream cones!
Although the beginning days for these two strangers were awkward and a bit scary, both were determined to forge a relationship based on their common interests, not the least of which was their mutual desire to be part of a family.
They began doing typical mother-daughter things like baking, going out for pedicures, and having long heart-to-heart chats.
Over time, the bond was cemented and both were certain that they wanted to become a family.
Today, Ashley has all the things that most teenage girls could hope for: love, security, a home, and the devotion of someone who will be with her through all of life's journeys.
Every dark cloud has a silver lining. Because of the fear and sadness, and then the eventual love and acceptance she experienced, Ashley felt a calling to somehow help other displaced children maintain a sense of value and worth throughout their own ordeals. So that is how "Suitcases of Hope" was born.
Through her efforts, children who may have been whisked from their homes on a moment's notice, leaving their own belongings behind, will have something to call their own. Each child is given a duffel bag full of some of the things a child would want and need during those first dark hours. Of course, it's not everything, but it is enough to let the kids know that someone out there cares about what happens to them.
Both Liz and Ashley are doing their parts to make this world a better place and we are so happy they found each other.
To hear Ashley and Liz' story in their own words and to learn more about youth adoption, please click on the video, below.