If you don’t follow Humans of New York on Facebook or their main website, then you’re missing out on a truly inspiring photography project. There are hundreds of photographs and stories from real people that will leave you with all the feels. I’ve gathered together the posts on foster care and adoption all in one place. Grab a tissue and happy reading these stories from Humans of New York!
“My husband and I have been trying to adopt a child from foster care for six years. The process is unbelievably difficult. There’s a reason people choose to adopt from foreign countries. Right now I’m waiting on my son to finish his ballet performance. He came from an orphanage in Guatemala. Can you imagine how different his life would be if we hadn’t adopted him? So this time we tried to adopt in America. We’ve inquired on 530 cases in five years. We’ve reached the final round several times, but each time we’re not chosen. Once it seemed like we were finally on the brink of adopting five siblings. We spent so much time with them. We were bonded with them. But at the last moment, the top administrator vetoed our case. No reason was given. He thought we ‘weren’t a good fit.’ We were devastated. I still have their pictures. We’re good parents. We have six grown children and two who still live with us. Everyone is doing well. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to adopt. Everything moves so slowly because the bureaucracy is overloaded and underfunded. These kids have no money so they have no voice. I’m in a support group on Facebook full of people like me. Everyone is agonizing over the reasons that they aren’t being matched: too old, too many children, not enough children, not enough money. The guesses are endless. In the meantime there are 100,000 kids in this country who are waiting for a family.”
“I found myself in my forties and I’d never had children. And one night I was watching a show on television, and it was talking about how many older children are in foster care, and I decided it was something I should do. I work now as a counselor who advises families considering older adoptions. So many foster children get returned to the system when they hit their teenage years because the parents have unrealistic expectations. People expect foster children to be grateful and well behaved and respectful. But many of these children have been traumatized, abandoned, and hurt. They are going to push your buttons just like any other teenager, and they are going to force you to deal with your own issues. It requires a lot of patience to give them the time, support, and space to process their life.”
“After my mother died, the four of us bounced around in foster care. Luckily we were all able to stay together. After several years of moving around, we eventually found a permanent home. Our new parents were Fidia and Luis Figuereo. I remember the first day we arrived at their house. They were cooking up a storm. I can remember exactly what they were making: rice, yellow beans, and steak. Atthat point I assumed that it would just be another foster home, but we soon became a family. The Figuereo’s had two kids of their own, so there were six of us total. All the girls were in one room and all the boys were in another room.
“Do you remember the moment you began to see them as your family?”
“I do. I got in trouble at school one day because I wouldn’t take off my hoodie in class. And I remember Fidia showed up, and I thought: ‘Oh crap. Here comes Mom.’”
“I’ve lost count of how many foster homes that I’ve stayed in. It seemed like I would move every six months, because they didn’t like me or I didn’t like them. I pushed a lot of people away and I burned a lot of bridges. But I’m the 9th of 12 children. I was the only one to go to college. I don’t have any kids. No crazy ex-boyfriends. And I turned out OK because of the people in foster care who didn’t go anywhere when I tried to push them away.”
“Anyone in particular?”
“There were a lot. But there was a counselor at one of my group homes named Jenell Buege. And when I woke up crying at 3 AM because I felt like nobody loved me, she would sit with me and tell me that she cared about me, and she wasn’t going anywhere. And she’d tell me that God cared about me, and that God wasn’t going anywhere.”
“Sometimes I feel like I’m not ready. And that’s a bad thought to have. Because once you get that thought into your brain, it goes into your body and your whole body shuts down.”
“When is a time you felt like you weren’t ready?”
“When I got out of foster care, I wasn’t hip to talking to people. In foster care, all we did was come home and go to our rooms, and I was living with this older autistic kid who would beat me up every day. So when I got out, I didn’t feel like I was ready to talk to people. I’d have to practice in the mirror every day.”
“My mom committed suicide when I was ten. I’ll never forget the day we went to foster care. It was the last day of third grade. I was riding home on the bus with my brother, and I was so excited about meeting my friend later at the YMCA. But when we got home, all of our stuff was packed into boxes. My dad was sitting on the stairwell, crying. He wouldn’t tell us what was going on. He just told us that we had to leave. For the first couple years of foster care, he’d tell us every week that he was about to come get us. After awhile we stopped believing him.”
“I ran away when I was 12 because my dad never fed me. I’d see other kids walking with their parents, and they seemed happy, so I figured things weren’t normal with me. The cops picked me up as I was about to cross the George Washington Bridge, and I’ve been in foster care ever since.”
“I grew up in foster care. My family was given money to spend on me, but they spent it all on themselves. I first got into fashion because I had to learn to make all my own clothes.”
“I just came back from a commencement ceremony. An old student of mine just got his Master’s Degree in Social Work. He grew up in group homes and foster care. He was a handful back when I taught him, but we never gave up on him and he never gave up on himself. And now look at him. He’s already talking about getting his doctorate. Seeing him up there in those robes– my mind is just filled up with images from today.”
“We’d been trying to adopt for several years. We didn’t want an infant. The waiting list was too long. Plus we had one child already, so we’d already been through the experience of having a baby. We wanted other couples to have that opportunity. So we decided to adopt an older child. But everything went wrong. Our application was invalidated after three years because my husband got a job in Ecuador. When we tried to start over, the government went on strike. Then we lost all our possessions in a storage facility fire. So I was about to give up. I couldn’t do it anymore. The process was stressing me out so much that it was affecting my biological child. Then right when I was about to give up, I saw a Humans of New York post about a man who’d grown up in a group home. I thought: ‘He could have been my child.’ I wrote about my difficulties in the comment section, and hundreds of people responded. Everyone told me not to give up. My phone was buzzing all day. The ones that touched me most were the stories from adopted children. It gave me the strength to go on.”
“It’s very difficult to talk about adoption on the Internet. No matter what you say, somebody will say the opposite. We adopted Axel last January. He had spent three years in the orphanage. The staff loved him and were desperate to find him a family. We were the only ones on the list for an older child. We knew it was going to be difficult. I had read a lot of literature on the difficulties of overcoming early neglect. And we’re making progress. We’re teaching him that our home is a permanent home. We are learning that touch is a good thing. We are learning that hugs can make you feel better. And I’m learning to not put so much pressure on myself. At first we felt so much pressure to love him. It would hurt me when he didn’t want to be hugged. I wanted to immediately love him as much as our biological son. And I felt guilty because it wasn’t happening right away. But then I stopped pressuring myself. My husband and I decided to focus on basics. We focused on providing food, shelter, and education. And once we stopped pressuring ourselves to feel a certain way, we discovered that we already loved him quite a bit. It’s a roller coaster. But I feel like we’re heading up. Adopting an older child is difficult, but every child is difficult. My biological child was difficult. Only this time, after several months, I’m sleeping through the night, my boobs don’t hurt, and I don’t smell like diapers. So I feel like I should be doing a victory dance.”
“My mom’s a single mother. She adopted me when she was 40. She always tells me that she had a mid-life crisis, and she got a kid instead of a motorcycle. And I’m forever thankful for that. She’s never been too close to her family, so it’s always just been the two of us.”
“There was a time in 8th or 9th grade when I felt really alone. I lived in Virginia at the time and it seemed like I was the only Asian in the county. I was gay. I wasn’t religious. It seemed like I was the only one who didn’t have John 3:16 written on my locker. I joined the marching band and felt like I’d finally found my clique, but then not long afterward my mom told me that we were moving again. It started to feel like I didn’t belong anywhere, and of course my teenage hormones had me wondering if I belonged on earth. Around this time I made the mistake of reading my adoption papers from China. My parents had left me in an alley. They didn’t even bother to bring me to an orphanage.”
“What’s your greatest struggle right now?”
“I adopted a son about six months ago. He’s 3.5 years old, and we’ve been having difficulty with his behavior. If he was here right now, he’d be running around, pulling up plants, and hitting things with sticks. He’s spent all his life in an orphanage, and was deprived of adult attention. The psychologist tells us that’s the reason he’s acting out.”
“What’s been your happiest moment with your son?”
“One morning I was standing in the kitchen, and he hugged me without me asking.”
“When I was six months old, I was dropped off at an orphanage in Northern China with a little note pinned on my shirt. It only had the name of my village. The orphanage named me Gaoanna, which translates to ‘Girl From High Mountains.’ My mother decided to adopt me after she received my picture in the mail. She was 45 at the time. She had recently gotten divorced. She’d never had children. So it’s just been the two of us my whole life. I remember one time in high school, we got in an argument and my mom got very emotional. She started crying and said: ‘We can’t fight. It’s just the two of us. We have to stick together.’ At that moment I realized how much I had changed my mom’s life. She’d known from the start, of course. But it was something I needed to learn.”
I was riding in a van with a television crew who was doing a piece on HONY. The cameraman, Duane, was behind the wheel. At one point he casually remarked on how bad the traffic was in Ethiopia.
“Ethiopia?” I asked. “What story were you working on there?”
“It wasn’t a story,” he replied. “We were picking up our daughter.”He then told me the most amazing story. He told me that he and his wife were not able to conceive. “But I’d always resisted the idea of adoption,” he said. “My wife wanted to adopt right away, but I was just never sure if I’d be able to fully love a child that wasn’t my blood.” So time went on, and they remained childless.
Then one evening Duane was watching a television show with his wife. The show was about aid work in Ethiopia. “They were showing before-and-after photos,” he explained. “I remember this one girl. She was skin and bones. But she still had this amazing smile and spirit in her eyes. The aid workers rehabilitated her, and six months later, she looked like a normal little girl. Right then, I turned to my wife, and said: ‘I’m ready to adopt.’”
But it wasn’t as easy as he’d hoped. “At first I thought we needed an infant,” Duane explained. “I just couldn’t imagine missing out on all those early moments of our child’s life.” But for healthy infants, the waiting list was years. “So then we went we moved up to three or four year olds.” But still, the waiting list was one to two years. “The only children you could get immediately were seven and up, and who had physical handicaps of some sort. I just didn’t think I was ready for it.”
But then Duane and his wife went on vacation. And toward the end of the trip, “after a few drinks,” Duane’s wife brought out a brochure from the adoption agency. One of the pictures showed an unsmiling seven year old girl, standing against the pink wall of an orphanage. She had been blinded in one eye. “That’s our daughter,” Duane said.
Three years later after the Watkins adopted her, Chaltu has blossomed. She has grown over one foot, is fluent in English, and although blind in one eye, plays soccer, gymnastics, and basketball. She’s doing great at school, and has tons of friends. “She is the greatest daughter in the world,” Duane said.
“I fostered thirteen little babies in my life. It’s just a passion I have in my heart. Often they’d just come wrapped in a blanket. I could only foster one at a time because I had five children of my own. But one time a mother dropped three children off on my doorstep. She had just given them chocolate ice cream. I’ll never forget how the ice cream was dripping off their faces. Most of the time I’d only have the children for a few months. And once they were adopted, I’d never contact them again. But I often wonder what happened to them. Maybe we’ll meet again in heaven.”