Robin hit the magic age of fifteen today. There’s something about fifteen…not quite the landmark of sixteen, but somehow not a little kid anymore either. It’s a big day.
In celebration of her day, I think I’ll tell her story.
Robin came to us when she was six. Her brother, Billy had come to us six months prior and one day he said, “Can I call my sister?” He had a sister? First I’d heard of it and he’d been with us two months. And so I learned he had not one, but four sisters and Robin lived just six miles away.
Placed with a relative about a year before, she and Billy had been separated in the midst of one of their ten foster placements. Robin was placed with a relative who, though well meaning, had only taken her in as a sense of obligation. After a few visits to our home, we told the caseworker we would gladly take Robin as our own and keep the sibling group together. And so it was. In March of 2004, Robin moved in.
Robin was one of those who called us “Mom and Dad” right away. It was cute, in a totally dysfunctional way, how she loved the way it rolled off her tongue. “Mom and dad, can I go to the bathroom? Mom and dad, do you want some milk? Mom and dad, mom and dad, mom and dad…” she’d say for any and all reasons just days after moving into our home.
Born into drug addiction, Robin didn’t have much of a start in life. Her birth parents were arrested for a methamphetamine lab when she was 21 days old and she was taken into States custody for the first time, barely out of the womb. For the next six years she was bounced around from various foster homes, dropped back into her parent’s custody multiple times and landed in a relative’s house when her birth father went to jail for domestic violence and her mother chose an abusive boyfriend over her children. Finally, she came to us and her caseworker breathed a sigh of relief when we said we would keep her.
Two years went by before the adoption was finalized because that’s just how the system works. The State of Oregon proceeded with terminating her parent’s rights and though her mother signed off her parental rights with little fight, Robin’s father got out of jail in April of 2004 and filed an appeal, thus delaying the adoption another two years. It’s frustrating, the parents rights to appeal. They can abuse, neglect, destroy their children for years, go off to jail for beating the crap out of someone, test positive for drugs over and over and still the state will provide them an attorney and delay permanency for a child who desperately needs the feel of commitment offered by that word, “adoption”. Hardly seems like that’s in the child’s best interest…but don’t get me started on our broken system.
So Robin became a legal Riley at the age of nine and blended right into our family as if she’d always belonged.
Now, at fifteen, she exceeds my expectations. Robin is a natural athlete who loves to write, who cherishes her family and tells her mommy everything. Who says to me last week, “Apparently my friends were all drunk and puking last night…” with disgust on her face and pain in her heart as she watches them fall from the cliff…and realizes there is nothing she can do. And my girl, who knows what alcohol, drugs, and irresponsible sex can do, holds her head high and says, “I’ll just find new friends.”
A voracious reader, a practiced smart-ass, a good girl, Robin represents success in every sense. From a six pound meth addict to beautiful young woman, Robin is the epitome of the overcoming, the shining example of what can happen when a throw-away soul is simply given a chance to survive.