It was a typical day for principal Jason Smith back in 2015 inside Campbell County Middle School when 6th grader Raven Whitaker appeared outside his office door.
As it turned out, the student had been suspended for throwing food in the school cafeteria.
Mustering his patience and logical reasoning skills, Smith posed a probing question designed to help show the young girl the error of her ways.
“Well, if you were out at a restaurant, would you do that there?” he asked.
Raven explained she had actually never been in a restaurant, and that she was living in a group home, a longtime participant in the foster care system.
Raven Whitaker-Smith would go on to share about the horrific home life she encountered prior to being relocated.
“We had head lice. We had bruises all up and down us. Our fingernails were really gross and stuff,” she explained.
Jason Smith returned home that day burdened by the encounter. He shared the experience with his wife, Marybeth. The Smiths had been struggling with infertility and had recently been fostering three siblings. They had hoped to adopt them, but were crestfallen when a permanent placement didn’t materialize.
Ultimately, the Smiths decided to pursue fostering Raven, a scenario the young girl received with some mixed emotion.
“It was really weird at first because, in my mind, I thought of [Jason Smith] as the bad guy because I was always getting in trouble,” she recalled. “But then for my first weekend visitation, they made me feel extremely welcome, like I was already in the family. They got everything that I needed without even knowing that I would be there forever. They just did it.”
Speaking with “Good Morning America,” Raven said, “I gave them a bunch of trouble to see what would happen. I kind of tested whether or not this was real or not to see if they would keep me no matter what, because they would tell me that but, you know, I’d heard that a lot before … I wanted to just challenge and see if they were really willing to accept me.”
The Smiths not only accepted her, but they officially adopted Raven in 2017. Now a young woman, Whitaker-Smith is a junior at the University of Kentucky.
“If you’re out there and you’re thinking about fostering a kid, don’t be afraid to take a teenager. I couldn’t love her any more if I had given birth to her,” Marybeth Smith reflected.
If you feel led to consider welcoming a child into your home, we’d encourage you to read more about the experience via our Wait No More program, Focus on the Family’s unique program designed to bring awareness to the great need throughout America. There are currently over 100,000 children where Raven was back in 2015 – vulnerable young people available for adoption and yet uncertain of their future.
Might the Lord be nudging you to consider serving in this significant and critical field of endeavor?
Image credit: Marybeth Smith