A 16-year-old Fayette County girl is learning to become a more independent person, while still yearning to be adopted into a family.
“When I was a baby, I was neglected,” said Faith Shultz, a girl who has been in the system since she was an infant, moving between different facilities throughout her life.
She now lives at the Keystone Adolescent Center in Greenville, Mercer County, attending high school and taking part in the center’s transitional living program, which teaches teens how to meet their basic needs in the areas of education, life skills and employment.
Shultz wants to get a job, and is learning skills she hopes will fulfill her dream of getting into the cosmetology field. She wants to own her own hair salon one day.
In the meantime, her dreams are more focused on finding a family.
“I’m just waiting patiently and telling myself that it’s going to happen one day or another,” Shultz said.
“She is a sweet girl,” said Lora E. Voycik, Shultz’s caseworker through Fayette County Children and Youth Services. “The whole situation is quite sad as all she wants is a family.”
But Voycik said adoption doesn’t come easy for teenagers if at all. According to a 2018 report from the Child Welfare League of America, of the 16,086 children in out-of-home care across Pennsylvania, nearly 20% of them, many teens, were waiting to be adopted.
“Most people wish to adopt younger children that they can rear and watch grow, which gives a quicker gratification and with teenagers that is lacking,” Voycik said, adding that the growth and milestones aren’t there that adoptive parents would otherwise see with younger children. “But these kids need forever families just as much.”
Voycik said all children deserve a family in their life to support them; someone to show up for them, celebrate holidays, share triumphs and losses, or to call after a rough day.
She said everybody longs to belong somewhere permanent, but teenagers hoping to be adopted find that to be a difficult experience. And when children in foster care age out of the system before being adopted, many struggle, having nowhere to turn. Some, she said, wind up homeless, unemployed or in prison.
“The statistics for youth that age out of care without a family are depressing,” Voycik said. “Adopting a teenager is an opportunity to break that cycle, to make a difference, to impact a future.”
Voycik said the hardest part of her job is meeting with teenagers sitting in group homes with no families coming forward to adopt them because they’re viewed as being “too old.”
“Agencies can only do so much,” Voycik said. “We need people in the community to come forward and open their hearts and homes to these youth, to give them an opportunity we often take for granted.”
Shultz, who loves to write, crochet, listen to music and draw, spoke from the heart about what adoption means to her.
“If someone wants to adopt, I would tell them it would help a kid have more support than they would have had in the past, and they would have someone that they would love,” Shultz said.
To find that love and stability a forever home provides, she said she’d happily move anywhere.
“I just want it to happen,” she said.
For more information on adoption, local families can email Fayette County CYS at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Pennsylvania Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network on their website at www.adoptpakids.org/ or call 1-800-585-SWAN.