Forever Family: Meet 11-year-old Amaya, a girl adopted from foster care - just like her dad

My daddy and I are very different, but we’re a lot alike, too. We both love animals. We like to help others. And we were both in foster care as kids. Foster care is a system set up to care for kids when their own parents can’t. Six years ago, my brother Makai and I were in foster care for three months. During that time, we lived with three different sets of foster parents. Then we got adopted.

When Makai and I were first adopted, everything we had was stuffed into trash bags, one for each of us.

My daddy and I do lots of things together, like caring for the animals on our little farm. We have ducks, chickens, goats, and two dogs. We also work to help kids who are in foster care today.

When Makai and I were first adopted, everything we had was stuffed into trash bags, one for each of us. That made my daddy feel really bad. When he was a kid in foster care and moving from place to place, he also carried the few things he owned in a trash bag. He says it made him feel like he wasn’t worth much. He thinks kids should be treated better than that. 

So my daddy started a charity to help kids in foster care feel better about themselves. We provide nice new bags and backpacks for kids to travel with as they move around. We collect new stuff from people who want to help, such as toothpaste and toothbrushes, new underwear, pajamas, and clothes that a child needs for his or her next foster home. I help out a lot—sorting donations and showing volunteers how to pack the bags.

Sometimes we include blankets that we make. The blankets help the kids feel warm. I remember when I was in foster care, the blankets we had were all torn up. There wasn’t enough money to buy new ones.

The first time I ever packed a bag at one of our events, it felt great. I chose to pack one for an eight-year-old girl, just like I was at the time. Then I packed one for a toddler. I got straight to work and picked out clothes. I made sure to put in a stuffed animal and a toy. I made a lot of bags that day. I was so happy about what I was doing that I didn’t want to leave when it was time for dinner. So we ordered pizza and kept on packing. Since then, we have given away more than 6,000 bags. They are important because when you’re in foster care, you might feel like you don’t even exist. It’s like you’re invisible. I know because that’s how I felt. Kids in that situation can be really sad. 

Our bags make foster kids feel as if they’re loved. On the earth, everybody’s a brother or a sister. It’s like the golden rule in school: People should treat others the way they want to be treated. So we try to do that.

Amaya packing her bags

When my brother and I got adopted, I was four and he was two. I was scared at first. I didn’t know what was going on or where we were going. I didn’t smile at all. But then I found a brand-new nightgown on my bed. I started to smile. I had never had my own nightgown before. It was pink with a princess on it. She was wearing a blue gown, and she had a carriage and a prince and everything.

I remember once when I was in third grade, a boy came up to me and asked me if I was adopted. I said I couldn’t remember, because I felt too shy to tell him.

When my daddy saw me smile, he hugged me. He started to cry a little. I felt happy because my baby brother and I finally had a forever home. I did still feel sad when I thought of the other foster kids we left behind. Four months later, our parents adopted two more kids, Greyson and Tristan. I love having three little brothers. My parents feed us, love us, and give us everything kids in foster care dream of having someday. 

And now that I’m in sixth grade, a lot of people know my story. That feels great. I always feel good about myself when my friends are around—one friend especially. When my friend was little, her mother couldn’t take care of her, and so she was adopted. When I heard her story, it sounded a lot like my story. It started out hard, but that part is over. 

Life is good for my family. Last summer, we went out West on a vacation. Then we visited our grandparents in South Carolina. I have my own bank account to save money for college. I work hard in school, and I love to play soccer and basketball. I play the trumpet, and I want to learn to play the piano and ride a horse. Last spring, we had baby goats born on our farm. I loved watching the mother goat teach her babies to head-butt. The moms are really good to their kids.

My brother Tristan and I love to cook. Sometimes we switch up breakfast and dinner. We’ll collect eggs from the henhouse and cook them for dinner. When I feed my dog, Kai-lan, or close the chickens up for the night, I give them love and lots of cheerfulness and happiness, just like my parents give me.

Family Portrait

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2015 issue of American Girl magazine.