11-Year-Old Foster Girl Sent to Principal’s Office for Fighting – Little Did She Know What Was Going to Happen Next
This is one coming of age story for the books!
It’s safe to say, high school wasn’t the easiest time for most of us. There’s a reason why so many coming of age stories follow how difficult it is for teenagers to make the leap from adolescence to young adulthood.
When you’re still in your teens and pre-teens, it’s hard to know exactly what you want in the future. And with so many options and daily mounting pressures — homework, friends, college applications — it’s easy to just want to give up.
Thankfully we made it through with at least a handful of lasting memories — and more often than not we can recall a special relationship with at least one teacher, who really believed in us. (Pay teachers better! They’re shaping the future leaders of tomorrow!)
For one struggling student, there was one teacher who made a big impact on her life — and it was the last person on earth she would have ever thought would help her. After all, he’d suspended her…she had no clue his next order of business would be to adopt her.
She Was a Foster Kid Flunking Out
To the naked eye, Raven Whitaker, (now 18), was just an 11-year-old foster kid with a bad attitude who was flunking all her classes. To middle school principal Jason Smith and his wife Marybeth Smith? She was a young woman struggling to find her place in the world, with no family to lean on.
Her Behavior Was Out of Control
Raven Whitaker was in rough shape when she first met Jason Smith, the principal of Campbell County Middle School.
Raven was sent to the Principal’s office after a troubling incident in the school cafeteria. She threw a yogurt cup at another student, and the teachers didn’t know how to handle her escalating behavior on their own anymore.
Out of options, they suspended her (a difficult feat in middle school). After her suspension was lifted, she was sent straight to Principal John Smith’s office for a firm “teaching moment.” Little did they know, this was one trip to the principal’s office that would teach her a life long lesson “detention” never could.
When Raven arrived at the Principal’s office, she braced herself for another stern talking to — one of many she had faced in her life. With crossed-arms she sat in front of Principal Smith planning to “get this over with.”
What happened next was more mind blowing than she ever could have imagined.
He Asked Her One Simple Question and the Answer Broke His Heart
Instead of reprimanding her, Principal Smith used a more gentle approach. He wanted to get to the bottom of what was making Raven act out; needless to say, it didn’t take long to crack the case.
“Would this behavior be acceptable at a restaurant?” Principal Smith asked. “I don’t know,” Raven Whitaker replied, “I’ve never been to one.”
To Raven’s own surprise, she opened up to Principal Smith. He was not only easy to talk to, but for the first time in her life, someone was actually listening. Raven didn’t hold back. She spilled her guts about the hardship she had been quietly facing, on her own.
She Had Lice in Her Hair and Bruises on Her Body
Looking back, Raven recalls the inhumane conditions she was forced to live in. She was put in a group home with several other kids of all different ages. All kinds of children came and went, it was a revolving door of misery.
By the time she was sitting in Principal Smith’s office, life had already beaten Raven down — literally. Her body was covered in bruises, her hair was filled with lice, and her fingernails were packed with dirt. With little resources and hope — it’s clear hygiene was definitely not a priority. More heartbreaking still, neither was her physical safety.
Raven endured what no child should ever have to.
Like so many other kids in the foster system who slip through the cracks, Raven was neglected and abused. At 11-years-old with no inspiring role models to demonstrate proper behavior, Raven was left to her own devices. The heartbreaking result? Acting out against authority figures and her peers.
Even though Raven faced the consequences of her actions over and over, she didn’t care. At such a tender age her life had already been more challenging than most face in a lifetime. She didn’t feel she had anything to live for or to fight for.
Thankfully there was someone who would fight for her.
A Weekend Visit Turned Into a Full Adoption
When John Smith had returned home that night after first meeting Raven, he immediately shared her story with his wife.
Thankfully the couple had the exact same response.
With some hesitation (they had problems in the past with fostering children) the couple extended an invitation to have Raven over at their home for a casual visit. She was only supposed to stay the weekend, but once she walked through the Smith’s front door, she never left. It was fate. They were family.
“They say that a mother falls in love with their child at first sight and I can remember Raven walking into that room that day, that scared little kid, and I just knew in my heart this is what’s supposed to be.”Marybeth Smith, Raven’s mother
She Wasn’t Sure if She Could Trust Anyone Again — She’d “Heard It All Before”
“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,” Raven Whitaker-Smith told GMA. “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.”
Even though the Smith’s had promised they would take it slow as to not get their hopes up — once again, life had other plans. “The same weekend [I visited],” Raven shared, “we went and painted by bedroom my favorite color — teal.”
It may seem like a simple act, but for a young girl who has never had her own room, being given permission to pick her own paint color is everything. Without words, it tells her, “get comfortable, you are welcome here, you are safe, we’re not going anywhere.”
She’d been holding her breath and she didn’t even know it. Finally, she could breathe out and breathe deep. She was finally home.
Despite wanting a family of their own, Marybeth Smith had been unable to have children. The couple clearly had a nurturing side — why else would Principal Smith choose to be an educator? Even though they couldn’t see it right away, their prayers would be answered — just not in the way they thought.
One Trip to the Principal’s Office Saved Her Life
”Honestly, I wouldn’t be alive. I probably would have gone down a completely different path.”Raven Whitaker-Smith
Yet as always, love is a two-way street. The Smith’s didn’t just save Raven’s life. She saved theirs.
It’s common knowledge that the older kids get, the less “desirable” they are for adoption. The sad reality is that children waiting who are older than six probably won’t find a forever family. The level of trauma they have suffered means that not many adopters feel able to provide them with the level of care they need to thrive.
But Marybeth Smith had a powerful message for all parents and aspiring parents. “If you’re out there and you’re thinking about fostering a kid, don’t be afraid to take a teenager,” she said.
“I couldn’t love her anymore if I had given birth to her.”Marybeth Smith
Now, Raven Whitaker-Smith is completely unrecognizable from the little girl she used to be. With the encouragement of her two loving and supportive parents, Raven went from flunking the fifth grade to a full-blown university student!
She’s studying at The University of Kentucky and perhaps most heartwarming of all — she’s working towards a degree in social work and hopes to help others one day, who are just like her.
Life Doesn’t Always Go According to Plan — And That’s Beautiful
You know what they say, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” Raven’s story is a reminder that hope can come from the most unsuspecting places.
Chance encounters can change our life. In fact, more often than not they are almost always the thing that does. Don’t believe it? Think again.
Love — the greatest thing we got as humans — is nothing but chance. Take a minute to reflect on all the friends you’ve met or the partners you’ve loved and then think of how easy it would have been to have never met them at all.
Missed connections and failed plans can feel like the worst thing in the world, but more often than not, with enough perspective hopefully we can realize we shouldn’t have many regrets.
We are may not always get what we want — but as the Rolling Stones put it best, “you get what you need.”
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