“A teenager who is gearing up for adulthood and hopes to one day become a mentor to kids in the foster care system is urging families to consider becoming foster parents to other teens.
Gabriel Helton was just 15 years old when he and seven other adopted siblings were removed from their adoptive home.
“We were just, like, in our home and just some of us more than others, just being malnourished with food improper sleeping places,” Helton said. “Eventually, (Child Protective Services) showed up at our door and just came and got us.”
Two years ago, after spending some time at a children’s home, Helton was placed with Jennifer Green and Gordon Cook in Bandera.
“This is a pretty good place,” the now 18-year old Helton said with a smile.
Helton admits he’s staying busy outside doing teenage things, like holding a job, going to school, playing sports and training for a future career in the U.S. Army.
The teen says he was one of the oldest kids at the home he was placed in and often felt like a grown-up looking after other kids younger than him. In the two years that he’s been with his current foster family, he’s been able to do things teenagers do, and he’s grateful for that.
“You just learn to appreciate the things that you have,” Helton said.
Cook and Green own an outdoor adventure camping site in Bandera County. They explored the possibility of opening up their campsite for foster kids when they felt a calling to do more and open up their home. “As we did more research, we found out nobody wanted teenagers,” Green said.
With two grown children, the couple felt teens were the perfect match for them.
“They’re really fun. And they keep you up on all the latest technology, and just they’re interesting,” Green said.
The couple says there are challenges to having teens, but it’s not any different from any other parent’s challenges. The benefits are the love and the growth of their family.
“The biggest thing you’ve just got to remember is they’re kids, and they’re not perfect. They’re not going to be perfect,” Cook said.
The couple says there’s a level of patience that goes along with being a parent.
“There’s a lot of people out there that can do it, but they don’t know they can do it,” Cook added.
Watching the foster care crisis unfold, the family felt a need to urge others to be a part of the solution….”