I’ll be honest. My impression of Craigslist is not good — it’s the last place you’d want to go to find a trustworthy babysitter, a lucrative job or a non-creepy date. But what if you were a 19-year-old girl in need of a family?
Natalie Carson of Westminster, Colorado, a college student, recently posted a heart-wrenching Craigslist ad for that very reason. After being abused by her biological parents, Carson grew up in foster care and was never placed with a long-term family. Now, as Carson prepares to turn 20 and say goodbye to her teenage years for good, she has one simple wish: She is looking to “rent” a family on Craigslist to celebrate her 20th birthday with.
Carson’s Craigslist ad requirements are straightforward. This young, open and vulnerable teen is not looking for a family to support her since, clearly, that ship has sailed. Carson is a responsible young adult who is attending college and does not need financial support from a family. She just wants someone to spend her birthday with, and she has offered to pay her rented family $8 an hour.
Carson was placed in foster care in Colorado when she was just a baby, where she was quickly adopted and moved to Georgia with her adoptive family. Sadly, she was placed back in foster care at the age of 12 because her adoptive family was abusive. When Carson aged out of the foster care system at age 18, she took a bus back to Colorado on her own to the place where she was born.
While the Craigslist ad has since been removed, the original post was titled, “Young Female College Student looking to ‘rent’ family for birthday.” The ad continues, “I am currently a young female college student looking to rent a family that I can spend time with on my birthday in a few weeks. I aged out of foster care and since I was never adopted, I don’t have a family to spend holidays or my birthdays with. I was placed in foster care after being severely abused by my parents, so spending time with my biological parents is not an option. I am not a weirdo or anything, I was just inspired by another girl that rented a family from Craigslist in California for the holidays.”
Carson writes, “I just want one day that I can feel important and special, and like I matter even if I really don’t. I have never had a good birthday, so I figure why not this birthday.”
Wow. After reading what this honest teenager wrote, I wish so desperately I could fly back to stay with my family in Colorado and just spend some time with her, free of charge. I’m not the only person who feels this way — Carson’s ad struck a chord with hundreds of Craigslisters. She estimates that she received more than 1,000 emails in response, some from as far as Australia and Canada. Carson is currently discussing her birthday plans for June 10 with one family in particular.
Because of her willingness to reach out and ask for help, Carson’s story has a happy ending. But that’s not the full picture. There are plenty of other teens who age out of foster care and don’t have a soft place to land. Carson urges those who still want to help to support other children in foster care and organizations that aid foster kids. For every Craigslist ad like this that makes the news, count on the fact that there are thousands of other teens who would love a family to celebrate with.