‘I’m not going to sugar coat it. His file is so big, no one will even look at it anymore.’ He was pencil thin, eyes sunken so deep. He was ours.’: Couple adopts 16-year-old runaway after his birth mom called police on him, ‘His story didn’t end how the world told him it would’

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“We are no strangers to the ‘road less traveled’ lifestyle. Quite frankly, we live with a, ‘been there, done that’ attitude, since becoming parents to a 16-year-old son at the ages of 25 and 27. We had spent a year and a half getting to know the boy that made us mom and dad before we got the call that our son was going to be a big brother. We welcomed our second son, an incredible 14-year-old with a smile that can melt the coldest heart. Our lives were starting to make more sense. The pieces were coming together. We had spent 4 months bonding as a family and were a week and a half away from celebrating our first Christmas as a family of four. The personalized ornament with our names across reindeer was already on our tree and our bags were packed in the car for a quick pre-Christmas getaway.

That’s when we got the call.

Courtesy of Casey Douglas
Courtesy of Casey Douglas

It was our oldest son’s previous caseworker (side note:  We LOVE and adore her, and she does not get nearly enough credit)

‘I know you’re working on adopting your second,’ she said, ‘but I need your help.’

She began to tell us about this boy who would become our third son.

‘I’m not going to sugar coat it,’ she said. ‘His file is so big that no one will even look at it anymore.’

She was dancing around the facts, and we could tell. She told us bits at a time to see if we would scare. He had run from his previous placement. He was failing all of his classes. She said he just didn’t ‘fit’ at his previous home, and she had no other place to turn.

There is something completely earth shattering when you hear that you, in all of your mess and imperfection, are the last chance (and best option) for a child who has already lost everything. I suppose, in our family at that point, the only option was to pray and to continue giving, even when there’s nothing left.

My best friend still laughs at me about the phone call we shared, when I told her we were going to have another son. From what I’m told, there were a lot of tears and blubberings of ‘But it’s Christmas, we can’t leave him alone.’ I don’t remember much of it. I knew we were going to be ok, but I didn’t know how it was going to work.

We asked to FaceTime him, to ask if he would like to have a place in our home and to prepare him for the crazy that is our family.

As we drove down the highway, packed up for a weekend of fun and family, we saw through a screen the emptiness in his eyes and the face of a kid who didn’t even know what hope was.

Courtesy of Casey Douglas

Our vacation turned into a wild whirlwind of prepping for a son/brother that none of us had even begun to know.

What did he like? What did he hate? What was his style? Did he have hobbies? Would he even want to stay?

We returned home with just enough time to replace the family of four ornament with a 5th reindeer and new name (Maybe also enough time to wonder if we were crazy, but by this point, crazy is half of who we are!)

He was pencil thin, his eyes sunken so deep we couldn’t even make out the color. He had a bleached blond ponytail running down to his shoulders. He couldn’t make eye contact for more than a second. His skin was covered with sores and his hands curled and tremored. He was 15 years old. He was ours.

Courtesy of Casey Douglas

Immediately, he started telling us the worst of the worst things he’d done, trying to see if we would shake. As he listed off stories of the drugs he’d done, the girls he’d been with, and the things he’d seen, I couldn’t help but see the beginnings of a boy who would leave that past behind.

His caseworker stared wide eyed at him.

She looked like she was wishing he would have at least let her get down the block before we decided we couldn’t do it and that he was too much, but she knew he was ours too.

Before long the jitters stopped, the drugs wore out of his body and his heart began to heal.

When his eyes became clearer, so did the truth of what he had been through.

He was born to a meth addict and a pedophile. They cared more about their fantasies than their reality and when CPS stepped in, they said, ‘take them, we don’t want them.’ He was five.

He was young, so he got placed with a good family. He has fond memories of his first placement. They were good people. Then one day, their house caught on fire. They all made it out safely, but as they watched the flames rage, the dad realized their dog hadn’t made it out. He charged back in to save her, moments before the roof collapsed.

After the fire, he was shuffled to another good family. An older couple, they cared for him as best as they could until a family came forward to adopt him.

At age 8 he and sister were adopted. At age 13, he was officially returned to the custody of the state. The trauma of his past and the trials of raising teens were too much for them. They returned him to his biological mother.

That’s when he started to spiral. The drugs got harder. He started partying. He was the class clown, the hookup king, the one who knew how to get the good stuff.

Out of control, he tried everything he could to numb his past. Chasing after the next high got him into gang wars, a trap house fire, and eventually landed him in Juvie.

After he got out, CPS sent him to a Residential Treatment Center. He became known for fighting, until his hope of ever going home shattered. His biological parents’ rights had long been terminated and the family that he had come to know had their rights to him legally rescinded. He was once again a ward of the state. When he knew there was no one to come home to he quit. On everything. The fighting stopped. The behaviors stopped. He eventually got placed in a foster home.

This time, it wasn’t good. Free from rigid schedules and the supervision of institutionalized care, thrust into a world of ‘do what works for me’ parenting, he imploded. He dove headfirst back into all of his old habits. His easy-going persona gone, it wasn’t long before the conflict with his foster parents came to a head, he wouldn’t take it anymore, and he ran.

He made it all the way back to his biological mother, who told him he could stay with her. She then called the police while he was sleeping. They escorted him to CPS, who then called us.

This was the boy sitting in my living room. He sat there, staring at my shoes, not even able to hope that we could keep him safe, much less love him, but he’s not a placement. He’s not a foster kid. He belongs with us, now and forever.

Courtesy of Casey Douglas
Courtesy of Casey Douglas
Courtesy of Casey Douglas
Courtesy of Casey Douglas

He has a lot of struggles. There is a lot of pain hiding behind his big goofy smile. But he has a family around him, and he is learning that the same things that beat him to a pulp have tenderized his heart. He loves so much, and so well, because he’s been forgotten so many times. He chooses those who have been discarded and reaches out his hand to anyone who would reach back. He is a fighter.

Courtesy of Casey Douglas
Courtesy of Casey Douglas

His story didn’t end how the world told him it would. Instead, he is still writing it. He is the picture of redemption, the face to an entire group of kids that have been lost to the system.

Dear Mom & Dad – I’ve been with y’all for 1 year. And it’s been the best year ever! And… IT’S NOT OVER!!! I’m very thankful y’all accepted me when I wasn’t wanted. Love your son, Tim Douglas.

Courtesy of Casey Douglas
Courtesy of Casey Douglas

On October 31st, 2019, he became a Douglas.

On December 18th, 2019, he celebrated one year clean and sober.

This is our son. His name is Tim, and we are so very proud.”

Tall Cotten Photography
Courtesy of Casey Douglas
Tall Cotten Photography
Tall Cotten Photography
Tall Cotten Photography
Courtesy of Casey Douglas

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Casey Douglas of Athens, Texas. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read Casey’s background story of adopting her first teen son:

‘I’ve never had real parents before. I’ve waited my entire life to be treated the way y’all treat me.’: Couple adopts 18-year-old who was ‘abandoned by his birth mother with no name’

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