A 17-year-old girl has been adopted after spending ten years in care and living in 24 different foster homes.
Akyra Holstein met her mum Katie, 28, when she came to her home for respite care in March last year.
The pair hit it off instantly, and when she could no longer stay with her foster placement, Katie took her in, so she could finish high school.
Before they met, Katie had fostered 16 children, but she’d never looked after a child over the age of six.
To Katie’s surprise, after several months of living at the Holstein household, Akyra asked about adoption.
The teenager was officially adopted by her new mum last month, putting an end to her 10-year-long search for a forever family.
The self-employed data entry transcriptionist, also adopted one-year-old Michael Holstein on the same day, and the new family are settled in their home in Kentucky.
It’s far less likely for older children to be adopted, making Akyra’s adoption unusual – but Katie said it has been “so rewarding”.
She said: “When I first met Akyra, I was quite nervous – looking after an older child is a lot different to a little one, and I’d never done it before.
“Especially after she had so many years of trauma from being passed around different homes, it was a lot to take on.
“It was definitely a challenge, because she already has life experiences and is an independent person – but that isn’t a bad thing.
“But it’s great to have a daughter I can sit and watch Netflix with or send memes to throughout the day, and I can speak to her about everything.
“I had never planned to adopt a 17-year-old, but it’s been so rewarding.”
Reflecting on her journey, Akyra said: “I honestly thought after my last home put their notice in I was done for.
“After so many years in the system I was just tired of it all – but then I came to Katie’s and she was ready to take a chance on me.
“It hasn’t always been easy, but I know no matter what, I’ll always have my family to fall back on.
“I finally feel secure – and it’s the best feeling.”
Single mum Katie Holstein first began fostering in 2017, because she ‘always wanted kids in her life’ – and has now fostered a total of 16 children, with some as young as three days old.
But she’d never fostered a child older than six, until she got a call about Akyra, then 16, in March 2019.
After 10 years in the care system and 24 different foster homes, Akyra came to stay for a week as ‘respite’ for her then-foster parents.
Akyra ended up staying with Katie for several short stints over 2019, before Akyra’s previous foster parents put in their notice to end the placement.
Katie agreed to let her stay until she finished high school in a year’s time.
Katie said: “I was really quite nervous when Akyra came to stay, because I knew she’d had a long and quite traumatic history in the care system – but I knew I wanted her to finish high school.”
Akyra joined Katie for a longer-term stay in March 2020 – and fit straight into the family.
To Katie’s surprise, in July 2020, after several months of living at the Holstein household, the teen plucked up the courage to ask Katie how she felt about adoption.
Katie said: “I think that was an important moment for her, because that decision came completely from her.
“After so many years of having no control over where she lived, she got a say in what she wanted.
Akyra graduated from high school this summer, and rather than moving out, she had a family and somewhere to call home.
The adoption ceremony took place on September 25 – marking an end to Akyra’s 3,739 days in care.
Katie said: “Taking in a 17-year-old is completely different. You have to learn to parent someone who is almost an adult themselves.
“Little children eat what I give them, wear what I dress them in and do what I tell them, whereas Akyra makes those decisions for herself.
“The most important thing for us was compromise. She’s got a lot of her own life experiences and opinions and I respect that – I’m not a domineering mum.
“It was a learning curve for us both, and we’re still learning now, but it’s worth it.”
Akyra is “incredibly resilient and strong” with a “bold personality”, and Katie loves that they can talk about anything – from politics to friends.
They also have a shared love of The Twilight Saga – and they are “always sending each other memes throughout the day” to keep in contact.
Katie said: “I had never planned to adopt a 17-year-old, but since Akyra came to stay, I’d encourage people to consider it.
“The past eight months have been so rewarding, and I wouldn’t change a thing!”