When Annemarie Rainwater moved in to her eighth foster home at age 15, she was scared and wondered how long she would be welcome at her new home.
“I had had multiple foster homes tell me they were going to adopt me, and then get rid of me,” she said. “I was not gullible anymore. I did not believe anything that anyone said to me.”
To Annemarie’s surprise, things soon began to click with her new foster parents, Rick and Phyllis Rainwater. The couple also gave her structure that she’d never had before.
“They were very outgoing, bubbly people who were willing to help,” she said. “We had chores, we had to make our beds every morning before going to school—my life had never been normal, but that was how I envisioned normal. It was kind of perfect, and surreal, too.”
She also found that talking to the Rainwaters was easy—easier than it had been anywhere else.
“They just made me feel comfortable enough to come to them and talk to them about problems,” she said. “I knew they cared. They asked me questions, and wanted to know my thoughts and feelings and how they could help.”
“A wake-up call”
Still, as Annemarie moved from being quiet and scared to feeling safer with the Rainwaters, the trauma of her past brought new challenges.
“I hit my rebel stages,” she says, “and we had some arguments.”
Annemarie snuck out of the house several times, and ran away twice—once at age 16, and again, for a couple of days, at 17. The second time, she says, turned into a wake-up call for her.
“I realized that I was scared to give my heart fully to them because it might get stomped on like it did before.”
When Annemarie ran away, the Rainwaters searched for her. In their small Tennessee town, news reached Annemarie that they were looking for her, and when she learned of their efforts, she finally understood that they cared deeply about her.
“I knew then that they really loved me, that they weren’t going to give up on me. I knew I needed to stop running away.”
Annemarie was placed in another foster home, but she wanted to go back to the Rainwaters, and they felt the same. At a five-hour meeting to discuss reuniting her with the Rainwaters, she shared how she felt.
“I wrote them a 10-page essay about why I wanted to be a Rainwater. My eyes had opened, and I was so scared of losing them.”
Three weeks later, Annemarie moved back, and was adopted a few months before her 18th birthday. The signing took place in a courtroom, but Annemarie says that the setting didn’t matter.
“Just signing the papers with all my family, church family and friends…It was the best day of my life.”
Encouraging others to foster and adopt
Now in her 20s, Annemarie lives near her family and her relationship with her parents has grown very strong.
“I’m there just about every day, stopping in to say ‘hey’ or else calling my mom three times a day.”
After she graduated from college with a degree in social work, she began a career to help kids like herself, including working in the LifeSet program for nonprofit Youth Villages that once helped Annemarie.
She is also a busy public speaker for CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates), Youth Villages, and the Department of Children’s Services, telling her life story and how the organizations have impacted her throughout her journey.
Annmarie’s advice to people who are considering fostering or adopting a child? Jump in!
“I like to say that if you’re hesitant, that means you’re thinking about it. And if you’re thinking about it, you should just do it. Kids can be hard, but what they really want is structure and love, I promise. If you just give them that love, you could be the one person that saves their life.”
Wondering if adoption is right for you? Learn who can adopt and foster.