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The Littlest Survivor

by Pepper W.

Four years ago I met a little girl. She was 10 years old, fifty pounds and looked like she was maybe six or seven. Her hair was scruffy, her face dirty and her eyes mischievous. She had tiny features, bright eyes and a crooked smile. She wore baggy jeans tied with a rope belt, and on her tiny frame she wore an extra-large boy’s t-shirt. The rest of her clothes were stuffed in a black garbage bag. I met Cheyenne when I was introduced to her as her Guardian Ad Litem. I learned that she had entered the foster care system at two years old due to abandonment and neglect, had lived in 11 different foster homes and had two failed adoptions. My goal was to access her needs and to help find her a forever family.


Cheyenne had baggage. She had endured much trauma in her life and these were reflected in various ways in her behaviors. Added to the hard experiences she had endured post birth, Cheyenne had the extra complications of being exposed to continual drug and alcohol use while in the womb and the genetics from both her birth parents’ history of mental illness.

We could not erase her past. She needed love and nurturing. She needed healing. She needed to experience the love of a family, a family just for her, a forever family. She needed someone to show her unconditional love and merciful compassion. I worked for two years to find a family who would provide a loving adoptive safe home for Cheyenne before my husband and I, after much prayer, brought her home as our adopted daughter. Our first Christmas, Cheyenne pulled an ornament out of our box and said, “What is this boat with all the animals on it?” Cheyenne had not been taught Bible stories or even a moral foundation. My husband and I have the wonderful privilege of teaching Cheyenne about God. Parents of older adopted children may realize that their adopted older child may not have a moral framework to make good decisions. What a privilege to cultivate this in your child!

Older adopted children are amazing children! They are little survivors. Their need for love and nurture is the same as that of a young child. They long for a family to love them unconditionally. They often come with baggage. Because of this, they need people who will invest in them by loving them unconditionally, understand them by educating ourselves on how to connect to children from hard places, and give them a forever home. Cheyenne is thirteen years old now. She is happy and connected. She is loved beyond measure. She is still very behind in school, but for the first time she is really trying. She is safe and a precious blessing to our family. Cheyenne has taught us how to love, how to perservere, how to forgive, how to hope and all about “do-overs.”

The Wooten Family

I would highly recommend educating yourself on adoption and parenting children who have come from abuse and trauma. Their needs are great. The book by Karyn Purvis called The Connected Child is excellent! Equip yourself and open your home to a child in need. There are so many resources to help you. Every child deserves a nurturing, permanent family.