By Libby Smith

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (CBS4) – Every year about 25,000 teens “age out” of the foster care system with no support system in place. Those young people have higher rates of incarceration, drug use, unwanted pregnancy, unemployment, and homelessness. Having caring adults who can usher them into adulthood makes a big difference.

Teena & Josh have fostered 21 kids over the years. On their journey, they’ve adopted 3 of them and raised one biological daughter.

“What we always tried to do is treat them with all the love and respect they deserve just like we would for our own kids,” said Josh.

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Nathan has been with Teena and Josh since he was 2-and-a-half-months old, he doesn’t know another family.

“They’re really nice. They always hang out with me when I want them to do something with me,” he told CBS4.

Liam came to them at 5-and-a-half weeks. He also doesn’t know another family, but he has a special distinction.

“I became Parker’s first Safe Haven baby,” he said.

Nathan and Liam joined Teena and Josh’s biological daughter, Casidee. She’s in Seattle now studying psychology in college. But as a biological daughter in the midst of adopted and foster youth, she had to find her own voice.

“Remember that my issues are also valid. And, I’m allowed to communicate that to my family without that fear of feeling unheard,” she told CBS4.

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Together the family has added Marissa and Mia becoming the support they needed as they aged out of the system.

“I talk to at least one of them at least once a day,” Mia said.

Mia came to Teena and Josh when she was 14-years-old.

“I just immediately felt this rush of positive energy. And I just knew immediately she was safe. This house was a safe place, and I hadn’t felt like that in a long time,” Mia explained.

Her heart has been with this family ever since.

“They’ve been a huge blessing in my life, and I literally would not be where I am today in my life without my family,”

Mia aged out of the foster care system, but Teena and Josh never stopped fostering her.

“We need to set the kids up for success, and it does start with the community that they can trust and surrounds them and protects them, and then keeps them going,” Josh said.

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Teena and Josh surprised Mia at Christmas with adoption papers. She was 26 years old.

Seeing that piece of paper was like, “Oh my gosh! This is real! I have a family!” even though I always had them. Seeing that piece of paper just made it concrete,” Mia explained.

She says without her family she would likely be just another statistic.

“They saved me. Literally, all of them, every single one of them saved me,” Mia said.

The family is used to seeing Marissa come through the door on any given night.

“I show up all the time. We play games, we eat dinner, we’ll go out to family outings,” Marissa said.

She first came through the door when she was 15-years-old, and she’s been coming back ever since.

“They were my first foster home,” she said.

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“It’s very important that kids have a support system around them, and If you’re not going to do it, who is?” Teena said.

22-year-old Marissa relies on the whole family. She hangs out with brothers Liam and Nathan, and gets guidance and support from Teena and Josh. She’s even learning long-distance from sisters, Casidee and Mia.

“I don’t have a piece of paper saying I’m adopted, but I’m in the family. I’m part of the family, I know that, I feel that,” Marissa said.

“I look at where she was at 15 and where she is today. Where she’s now, a vet tech. She’s got her own vehicle. She’s paying rent, “ Josh said of Marissa’s progress.

She was able to do all that because of the structure and support of her family.

“It’s really just a life changer. It gives you that sense of peace and belonging and being loved and wanted,” Marissa said.

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Teena and Josh opened their hearts and built a family that has actually saved lives.

“I love it here. It’s not only a great place, but I love my family members,” Liam said.

“The growth that you get from this, the fulfillment that you get from this, the amazing experiences that you get from this makes it absolutely worth it,” Teena said.

LINK: For More Information On A Day for Wednesday’s Child

You can help Raise the Future create more families like this by calling 303-755-3975 to make a donation or get more information. You can also give by texting “2022 DWC” to 71777.

Libby Smith