A 17-year-old girl has been adopted following ten years in care, during which time she lived in 24 different foster homes.
Akyra Holstein first met her adoptive mum Katie Holstein, 28, when she came to her home for respite care in March last year.
The pair hit it off instantly, and when Akyra could no longer stay with her foster placement, Katie took her in so she could finish high school.
Before meeting Akyra, Katie had fostered 16 children, but had 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 the possibility of adoption.
The teenager was officially adopted by her new mum in September.
Katie, a data entry transcriptionist, also adopted one-year-old Michael Holstein on the same day as Akyra, and the new family are now happily settled in their home in Kentucky, US.
“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,” Akyra says.
“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.”
Watch: Sia reveals she adopted two teenage boys.
While it is less likely for older children to be adopted, making Akyra’s adoption unusual, Katie says welcoming the 17-year-old into her family has been “so rewarding”.
“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,” Katie explains.
“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.
“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.”
The single mum first began fostering in 2017 and has now fostered 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.
Akyra originally came to stay with Katie 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 2020, but in March Akyra joined Katie for a longer-term stay and fitted straight into the family.
To Katie’s surprise, in July 2020, the teen plucked up the courage to ask Katie how she felt about adoption.
“I think that was an important moment for her, because that decision came completely from her,” Katie recalls.
“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 as planned, she was able to return home to her new family.
The adoption ceremony took place on 25 September, marking the end of Akyra's 3,739 days in care.
“Taking in a 17-year-old is completely different,” explains Katie. “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.”
Katie says the most important thing to learn was compromise.
“She’s got a lot of her own life experiences and opinions and I respect that, I’m not a domineering mum,” Katie says.
“It was a learning curve for us both, and we’re still learning now, but it’s worth it.”
Katie hopes in telling their story other potential families will consider the idea of adopting an older child.
“The past eight months have been so rewarding, and I wouldn’t change a thing,” she adds.
Additional reporting SWNS.