Mother and daughter

Robin Adkison and Megan Heding are learning to adapt to the challenges of being a family
Sunday, January 16, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:01 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Megan Heding, 18, plops down in a seat next to her mom, Robin Adkison. She takes a long sip from a soda and starts talking about her health professions class. Adkison listens, nodding and laughing occasionally.

To most they would seem a normal family unit, mother and daughter.

They’ve only been that way for a year.

They met five years ago while Adkison, who works at United Way, was teaching an independent living class to kids in foster care through the state Department of Family Services.

“I like working with kids who are disadvantaged in some way, who don’t have the opportunities that other kids do,” she says.

Soon after the class, Heding began reviewing family profiles with the hope of being adopted. Because the names were blacked out, she didn’t realize one of the profiles she saw was Adkison’s.

Most kids Heding’s age are considered unadoptable.

“What kind of tag is that for a kid?” Adkison says. “There are so many teenagers who need a good home, and imagine how frightening it is to be 15, 16, 17, you’re going to graduate high school, and you’re going to grow out of the foster care system. These kids don’t have a safety net.”

Heding had been in the foster care system for 10 years. She had been holding out for the right family, and Adkison, finally, was the right fit.

On Sept. 8, 2003, the adoption was official. Adkison bought her a charm bracelet to commemorate the date.

“It’s a big commitment; it’s a big jump,” Adkison says. “To say we love each other and we’re family is one thing, but to get adopted, where they issue a new birth certificate. …” She trails off.

“It’s a lot different,” Heding finishes for her. “Being a foster kid, you always have that option of leaving. Nothing is ever really permanent.”

Adkison and Heding have already expanded their new family. Since July, Natalie, 16, has been living with them.

Though they bicker like most mothers and daughters, Adkison and Heding have had some more serious arguments that most families aren’t faced with.

“Here Megan is coming into my home, and I have a certain value system,” Adkison says. “Megan has already been exposed to different lifestyles, and I’m trying to enforce this other kind of lifestyle. It was difficult for her to adapt and difficult for me to accept that I have this child in my house who’s not a cookie-cutter of me.”

“We’re just different kind of people,” Heding says.

“Problem-solving, Robin always looks at things logically and I always look at things emotionally.”

“When Megan first moved in, I was really on her about her schoolwork,” Adkison says. “For Megan, school is not just about grades. She’s very inquisitive; she likes to learn.”

They kept arguing about grades until Heding reached her breaking point.

“I don’t know how to have a mother,” she said to Adkison.

“Well, I don’t know how to have a kid,” Adkison said back.

“Well, we’re in this together,” Heding finally replied.

“We’ve both had to look at ourselves and make positive changes to make this experience work,” Adkison says. “I wasn’t anticipating that I would have to change myself. It wasn’t so much that I was a gift to her, as she was a gift to me.”

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