Clayton* was only six years old when he attempted suicide. Starting in infancy and continuing through childhood, he had been a victim of physical and sexual abuse, he was malnourished, at times he was homeless and he felt hopeless.
These horrific circumstances began in the home of his biological parents and continued through multiple foster homes. The trauma Clayton had endured lead to behavior issues, which resulted in many foster parents feeling ill-equipped to support him. It was a lonesome 9 years for Clayton as he transitioned through 17 different foster homes and residential treatment facilities.
Clayton was 13 when he met his adoptive mother, Margo*, at a Children’s Home matching event. “I knew I was meant to be Clayton’s mother – my soul recognized him as my child immediately,” Margo said. A short time later Clayton moved into Margo’s home as her foster child while she completed the adoption process.
It was the winter of 2015 when Clayton experienced the joys of his first family Christmas. “I let him plan the whole meal for the day. He thought that was the most outrageously awesome thing he had ever heard of,” said Margo. “We ate macaroni and cheese for Christmas dinner.”
The beginning was extremely difficult as Clayton would act out. Margo said her husband felt these behaviors were too difficult to deal with, but Margo’s love for Clayton persevered and she finalized the adoption as a single parent.
“At first, Clayton thought that if he messed up he was going to get sent away,” said Margo. “He would go in his room and pack his bags. But I made it clear to him that he’s not going anywhere.” The trauma from Clayton’s childhood left him with a lot of fear and extreme anxiety.
“When he first came, he couldn’t tolerate being hugged – he couldn’t tolerate being touched in any way,” said Margo. “We’ve worked our way to it slowly. Now he can hug me – he can hug his grandma and his cousins. It really has progressed.”
Margo has found support and help to make this unique situation work from her mother, who is familiar with the challenges that can come with adopting older youth. “Never give up. Know that no matter what
hurt that child projects on you, that hurt was not you,” said Margo. “You have to be able to understand where that’s coming from and let it go. I feel so horrible that he had to go through what he did. I will always be here for him, I will always advocate for him.”
“Clayton tells me he feels loved,” said Margo. “He relishes in it now. He enjoys being cared for and having that safety net of a family.”
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.Learn more about how you can adopt from foster care