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Shadle Park senior defining own future

Shadle Park High School senior Samantha Hayden plans to become a nurse. (Dan Pelle)
Shadle Park High School senior Samantha Hayden plans to become a nurse. (Dan Pelle)

Don’t tell Shadle Park senior Samantha Hayden that “better late than never” is just a cliché. For her, those are words to live by.

Two years ago, after a childhood full of turmoil, Hayden filed a petition to be removed from her home and was living with her boyfriend’s family. That wasn’t such a great situation, either, but when she talked with her Girl Scout leader, that started the ball rolling toward the happy ending Hayden now foresees.

In a nutshell, here’s what happened. Hayden’s Scout leader talked to her friend Lisa Vorhies, an experienced foster and adoptive parent, asking if Samantha could stay with her for a few days. Vorhies went to court, expecting a temporary placement, but after a few questions, the commissioner approved a nine-month stay.

“I thought Samantha would be here for a weekend,” Vorhies said. “But it was a great fit right away. Nine months later, the court approved a renewal, and last fall granted permission for us to adopt her.

“People usually think that adoption is just for young kids,” she added. “But it’s important for 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds to have family to go home to as well. This process won’t be finished until after Samantha is older than 18, but neither of us care about that.”

“I can’t imagine living anywhere else,” Hayden said. “I already felt like part of the family when Lisa brought up the possibility of adoption. It was like all along I was meant to be there.

“Growing up, I knew that my life wasn’t like everybody else’s, so when I moved in with Lisa, I had to get used to a new normal for me. It was scary at first because I was 15 years old and had no idea how it would work there. I was overwhelmed for a while, getting to know everyone and their schedules, but it didn’t take long to settle in and become part of the family.”

Hayden has some communication with her father, who calls on holidays and sends occasional cards. But he has acknowledged, Hayden said, that she’s old enough to make her own choices about family, and she has.

She’s enrolled in the medical and nursing careers program this year at Spokane Public Schools NEWTECH Skills Center and is currently completing an internship at Touchmark Retirement Communities. She shadows nurses aides and helps attend to the elderly residents.

“I enjoy it a lot,” she said. “A lot of kids think they want to do something like this until they’re actually doing it, but I knew right away that this was for me. I want to be at work every day!”

Her career goal is to get a four-year nursing degree and eventually become an emergency-room trauma nurse.

What has she learned from her childhood experiences, including those of the past couple years?

“I’ve learned what to do and not to do when I’m a parent. Everything that’s happened has forced me to grow up faster, but since I moved in with Lisa I’ve had a different life than I would have had. I have choices now, and I’m responsible for me. I didn’t know it when I left home, but that turned out to be a blessing in disguise.”

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