STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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This special reporting project wrapped up in May 2017. Read more.

The Facebook post that changed their lives

screenshot of Abbi's Facebook post

She first went into the system when she was five years old, she says.

She bounced around, like any of the thousands of kids in Michigan who go through foster care. So she waited, like everyone else waits. Many of them wait so long, they turn 18 in foster care, and they’re never adopted. They “age out.”

But her story took a different turn. 

It was this winter. January. Abbi was 15 years old. We’re just using her first name.

She was living in a group home, thinking of another year, another birthday without a family. She talked to her therapist about it.

"And she said I should take it into my own hands to ask, for myself," Abbi says. "And I just made a Facebook post for someone to at least foster me for my birthday, ‘cause I hadn’t had a birthday in a long time.

She put the post up on January first.

"ATTENTION foster parents !!!!!" it began. "I turn 16 in April and I don't want to be in a group home for my birthday ... all I want is to feel like I have a forever family for my birthday and I promise I won't be no trouble at all ... I hope someone reaches out." 

Abbi didn’t know it, but even then, a family already was interested in adopting her. Jeff and Laura first learned about Abbi in December. To protect Abbi’s identity and her current location, we’re also only using their first names. But Jeff says they watched videos Abbi had made for potential foster parents. They liked her sense of humor. So they filled out some paperwork that would be the first step in trying to meet her. But they were new to the system. Jeff says they made a mistake, and the paperwork was initially rejected.

Then one night in January, they saw a Facebook post. It was shared on a page called “Operation Forever Family,” which is run by Bethany Christian Services.

Laura says she recognized the post was from Abbi.

"I sent a message ... saying 'Hey, we'll foster her right now,'" he says. "'We've got a bed open. And we are working on our adoption stuff, 'cause we want to adopt her.'"

"I just remember I saw all her things, and I was like, 'Well she’s for sure going to be taken now.'" Laura says. "So it was kind of sad."

But Jeff says they fired off a Facebook message anyway.

"And I sent a message to Forever Family, saying 'Hey, we’ll foster her right now,'" he says. "'We’ve got a bed open. And we are working on our adoption stuff, 'cause we want to adopt her.'"

Jeff says he sent the message at 10 p.m., hoping he’d hear back maybe the next day, or at least within a few days.

He says he heard back within 10 minutes.

So, Jeff, Laura and Abbi all met. They went bowling. They talked.

"What do you remember feeling?" I ask Abbi.

"A bit overwhelmed," she says. "But really excited."

"Did you think it was really going to happen?"


Credit courtesy of the family
Laura, Jeff and Abbi

And it did. She moved in with Jeff and Laura in March.

And last week, she had her birthday. With her family.

"Had a big Batman cake, because I love Batman," she says. "And it was just fun. Felt real."

As of 2014, there were more than 3,600 kids in the Michigan foster care system who were waiting to be adopted. That number was fourth-highest in the country.

But that won’t be Abbi’s story. Thanks to her Facebook post, thanks to Operation Forever Family, thanks to Jeff and Laura, she found a home. They expect the adoption to be finalized in early fall.

Dustin Dwyer is a reporter on the State of Opportunity project, based in Grand Rapids. Previously, he worked as an online journalist for Changing Gears, as a freelance reporter and as Michigan Radio's West Michigan Reporter. Before he joined Michigan Radio, Dustin interned at NPR's Talk of the Nation, wrote freelance stories for The Jackson Citizen-Patriot and completed a Reporting & Writing Fellowship at the Poynter Institute.
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