Someone recently asked me about adopting a teenager. We adopted Pedro when he was 17; he moved in with us just one month after his cousin, Stacey and her baby moved out of our home and broke our hearts.
So, what is it like adopting a teenager? Well, all the rules are different. Parenting rules, that is. We have very different goals for Pedro than our young children. We are not trying to redeem 17 years of bad parenting (or rather, no parenting). Our goal for Pedro is that he have a safe, Christian home to learn how to be a responsible adult. We are fully confident that he will far surpass that goal, but to have higher expectations would be to set ourselves and him up for failure.
When Stacey lived with us (she was 16 and had just given birth to a baby girl when she moved in), we had the same goals. We wanted to provide her daughter, Mariah, with a safe home to grow up in. Stacey was allowed to watch soap operas, for instance, so long as our kids weren't in the room. We babysat while she went to homecoming and prom. We planted seeds of faith in her and prayed for and with her, but we gave her the freedom to choose the life she wanted. Unfortunately, according to her, "normal" was just too foreign for her and she ultimately chose to move back to the inner city when Mariah was 9 months old. However, as a result of her stay with us, Mariah was breastfeed for the first year and a half of her life. That alone was a huge accomplishment. If the only purpose of her stay with us was for our prayers for her from then on, it wasn't at all wasted.