Fifteen-year-old Claudia Conway recently issued a plea to lawmaker Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez saying “please adopt me.” It’s unclear whether her appeal was meant to be a joke or not, given the political animosity between Representative Cortez and Conway’s parents. However, the teen has since followed that up with a very public threat to seek emancipation from her parents, so it seems evident there must be trouble at home. Getting emancipated in Texas is not easy, either.
From time to time, our adoption agency gets calls from children and teens, saying “please adopt me!” Usually, it happens when kids and their parents aren’t getting along, or when youth feel unwanted due to circumstances in their home. The last call we got like that was from a boy who asked “can you find someone to please adopt me?” We explained that his parents would have to initiate any adoption proceedings, and suggested he talk with them about it. “I did,” he told us. “They’re the ones who gave me your number.”
Like Claudia Conway, some kids may have identified someone else they wish they could be raised by, or they just assume life would be easier growing up somewhere else. (Foster kids and adoptees often fail to realize that getting emancipated or requesting adoption wouldn’t automatically enable them to return to their birthfamily, either.)
Kids (and sometimes, their parents, too) don’t have any idea how involved such a change might be. They rarely understand how painful such a transition would be for everyone involved. They don’t realize that the same problems that cause families to want to separate would still impact each of them, after they split, in one way or another.
Dear Kid Who Wants to be Emancipated or Adopted…
We hear you. Either you don’t have what you need at home or you don’t want what you’ve got there, so you feel like being adopted might be the perfect solution. Maybe your parents’ rules suck. Perhaps you’re sick of putting up with them, or covering for them, or not feeling like anyone gets you.
Nearly every kid wonders, at some time or another, what it would’ve been like to grow up with a different family, or to have another home. It’s normal to wonder about that. (And here’s a little secret: it’s also normal to go through times in your life when you really don’t like your parents or your siblings, even if you’ll always love them.)
If you are being abused or neglected in your home, there is immediate help available, if you call 1-800-252-5400 (in Texas) or nationwide, dial: 1-800-422-4253. (It is, however, against the law to file a false report, so please only call if there is actual abuse or neglect going on.)
You and your parent/s may have just had it with each other. You may say ugly things to each other when you’re mad. Your parents may be at their wit’s end with you, and you with them. There may be serious problems with your relationship that need some intensive therapeutic intervention. Family therapy may even be required.
Yet severing your family ties in order to become emancipated or to seek to be adopted by someone else is a very drastic and difficult step, which should only be taken as a last resort.
What’s Involved in Getting Out
In order to become emancipated in the State of Texas or to become available for adoption, you’ll need to start by hiring a qualified attorney. (Most lawyer’s fees usually start at around $300/hr, and keep in mind that you’ll need to pay for multiple hours of work, as well as filing fees, so expect to pay a retainer of $3k-5k to start.)
To get emancipated in Texas, you need to be 17 and able to live on your own, or 16 and already living independently, and you have to be able to prove that you can be self-supporting and manage your own financial affairs. (Don’t count on getting any child support payments, either. And note that becoming emancipated does not entitle a kid to gamble, drink, vote or buy cigarettes.) To be adopted, both of your legal parents must sign irrevocable surrenders of parental rights.
Plus whomever would be adopting you must already have an approved homestudy and background checks done. It’s not just as easy as going over to your best friend’s house and asking their parents “hey, would you please adopt me?” An adopting family, if you can find one, must be able and willing to assume full financial and legal responsibility for you (but being adopted will not relieve your bio-parents of any prior child support debts.) Ultimately, it would be up to a judge to decide whether or not to approve your case. (Yes, you still have to pay the attorney, either way, whether you win or lose.)
While there are plenty of adoptive homes waiting for babies, the sad truth is that there are very few families available to adopt older kids and teenagers. This is why so many children are waiting in state foster care, hoping to be wanted by a home that could be very much like the one you’re wanting to leave. Here’s the thing, too: there’s no guarantee that things would really be better for you if you did get emancipated or adopted. Plenty of kids have found out the hard way: the other grass is not always greener, since emancipation and adoption are permanent, when signed by a judge.
What Alternatives Are There?
For parents and their children who are seriously struggling to get along, check first what your community resources may be by dialing 211.
Perhaps a temporary foster care placement would allow everyone to get a needed break, or family counseling might help you learn new ways of communicating. Talking with a trusted advisor like a teacher or pastor may help relieve stress and generate other options. (If at any point things seem so helpless you think of harming yourself, you can get immediate support by dialing 1-800-273-8255.)
Abrazo has free counseling available for anyone in our community who needs it, of course, and if adoption is the only possible solution, we’re here to help. Just keep in mind that saying “please adopt me” should always be the very last alternative you consider if you’re already blessed to have a safe and loving home– no matter how annoying your family may be at times.