Raising a Teenager Who is Not Your Own

While all parents will find themselves within the teenage years at some point as their kids grow up, it is a whole different experience when you take in a teenager who has not been your child from birth. In a time when many parents are working too much or participating in illegal activity, it is the children that tend to fall through the cracks, and without someone there to guide them, can make the wrong turns in life. The teenage years are a time when it is important to have boundaries and positive support in order to thrive, and should it not be found at home, many teens will look for it elsewhere. My children have always known that our home is welcome to anyone, and over the years, our family has grown because of it.

I have personally taken in 2 teenagers over the years, in addition to my own 4 children, and it is a completely different experience. I would love to say that both were successful, but that is not the case.

The first teenager to join our family was a friend of my oldest sons who had come from a very troubled background. His biological father had passed away only a year after he was able to meet him for the first time. His mother was a drug addict, and was no longer allowed to have contact with her son. He was living with a step-father, but was having a very difficult time.

He had lived his childhood among drug addicts, had been shot at, and was never really given any parenting or guidelines as to how one should behave. He had been to our house numerous times, and was a very polite young man when it came to me and was always offering to help around the house. I could see that all he really wanted was a family to love him. He had been in and out of the juvenile system for most of his life, and it wasn’t long before I found out he was back in juvenile detention.

My son came home from school one day and told me that this boy’s step-father no longer wanted him and without a family to go home to, he was not going to be released from detention. My son asked if we could provide a home for him, and after discussing it with my family, we decided to take him in. I contacted his probation officer and the juvenile system, had his step-father sign over parental rights to me, and he moved in to our home. Before he arrived, I met him at the detention center and talked about the differences living in my home would bring. He would have rules to follow, and his previous behavior would not be accepted. He came to live with us, and things went well for a while, but as a 16 year old boy, trying to break him from the life of trouble he was accustomed to, proved to be too difficult, and within 4 months he again found himself in detention. No matter how much I tried to make a change for this young boy, it just didn’t make a difference. It was then that I realized that how a child is brought up really does mold who they are, and trying to change this mold, even during the teenage years, can prove to be very difficult. While I wanted to help this boy, I didn’t think it was fair to my family.

Two years later, my oldest son again had a friend who came from a split family and had parents that were abusive no matter how well this young man was and how well he accomplished things. This young man was a straight ‘A’ student, a state-champion with speech and debate, yet was looking at living on the streets because he just couldn’t stand to go through the abuse at home anymore. I was adamant that he would not be on the street, and told him he had a home with us. We have fought issues with his mother, and she has threatened to report him as a runaway and have me brought up on charges for harboring him, but as far as I am concerned, it is worth the risk. He is a wonderful young man, and in the 6 months he has been living with us, he has become a part of this family. He considers me to be his mother, and all of my children to be his brothers and sisters. The beauty of it is they feel the same way. While they will get in their little ‘tiffs’ as all siblings do, it is just that. Though there is not a drop of blood shared, he is just as much a son to me as my other children.

I have had many people ask me how I could think to take in more children, and ones with possible issues at that. My answer is they are all just looking for the love, respect, support and guidance that we all seem to think is natural. Unfortunately, a family with parents that become involved in their children’s lives is not as common as it once was. But, even if it means I end up with a dozen kids, I will still be the mom that is here to take care of and support my children, as well as any other children that need my love and support. I only wish that there wasn’t a need for parents like me. I wish that all parents would take the time to know and love their children, and their children’s friends.