Lorraine Hayward was 22 years old when she was adopted by Nicole and Mark Hayward. She had met the couple through You Gotta Believe, an organization that focuses on finding permanent families for older youth.
Lorraine shares her feelings about family and advice to prospective parents below.
What does family mean to you?
Growing up I never had a family. I lived in group homes or foster homes. I was adopted for a short period of time before the mother decided that she didn’t want me and sent me away. During that time I developed a picture of the perfect family in my mind. A family that could never exist.
Now that I have parents, I finally know what family really means. It means that when you need help, they help you. When you just can’t do something, they do it for you. It means that no matter what you do or say, they are still here, because they love you.
Before you found out that Mark and Nicole wanted to adopt you, what did you think your future held?
Mark and Nicole asked me if I wanted them to adopt me when I was 20 years old and getting ready to age out of the system. I was living in a foster home. It looked like I would be packing up my bags on my 21st birthday and heading to a shelter.
I told Mark and Nicole that I would think about it for a few days. At first I wanted to turn them down. My little sister, who I had lost contact with, was back in touch. We were talking about living together again. But I decided to become a Hayward and live with Mark and Nicole instead. Right after I made that choice my little sister disappeared again. I have not heard from her since.
What do you say to people who don’t think that older children need families?
When I got adopted, I posted it on Facebook. And someone replied: “Aren’t you too old to be adopted?” I can’t imagine someone thinking that. How can anyone be too old to have a family? Who doesn’t need people who truly love them?
What advice would you offer parents adopting older kids?
I am a very sensitive, loving person who never received the love and affection I craved. Now that I have people who love me, I don’t have to be mad at the world. But for a long time I was. I was angry and it showed.
To parents I would say understand where children came from and why they might be behaving the way they are. Don’t judge. Look into the future, at the possibility it holds, rather than in the past. Get to know children for who we they are right now. They will love you for it.
Read more about the Hayward family. In this family profile, Mark and Nicole Hayward describe their experience of adopting Lorraine and another teenager, Mathieu, who they found on adoptuskids.org.