Considering the childhood Maci Kean had, she has no business graduating with honors from Florida International University.
“By the time I was 11 years old, both of my parents have died due to drug addiction,” Maci said.
She lost 75% of her hearing at age five because her parents ignored her ear infections. When they passed away, Maci moved in with relatives she had never met. She says she was emotionally abused in those years.
“And by the time I was 16 years old, I was considered ungovernable and I was dropped off into a group home,” Maci explained.
At that point, most kids languish in the foster care system, but Maci’s life took a storybook turn at South Plantation High School. A teacher, Gigi Kean, got to know her and suggested to Maci that she join the Kean family, which already had two kids.
Maci would be gaining a sister who she had become friends with in drama class and a younger brother who was in middle school at the time.
“I really just did it because we could, everything she needed was something we could offer,” Gigi Kean said, but added that she and her husband hope they’re showing that adoption can work for families even when older children are involved.
Six weeks before she turned 18, during her junior year of high school, and after feeling abandoned for years, Maci suddenly had parents she could rely on.
“It still feels unreal sometimes,” Maci said. “It just feels good that I can come home with a stable, loving home, knowing they’re gonna be there to accept me for who I am and take care of me no matter what.”
Most kids take parents for granted. To Maci, they’re a treasure. Ask her dad why he adopted a teenager and he’ll tell you he was groomed for the task by his own parents.
“You know, growing up,” Chris Kean said, choking back tears, “My parents always opened our house to friends or family, so that’s really the answer.”
So now mom and dad, FIU graduates themselves, have a daughter who’s graduating Sunday, summa cum laude in psychology -- a girl who failed the third grade.
“When I look at myself and I see how far I’ve come it’s just, I think it’s safe to say that I’m very proud of myself and how far I’ve come,” Maci said.
“I wake up every morning and I’m like, just wow, I would be wowed even if she was not my kid!” Gigi Kean said.
Only 10% of foster kids nationally go to college, and of those, only 3% graduate. Maci knows she’s a role model with advice to give to other children who are in the foster care system.
“Everything that has ever happened to you is not your fault,” Maci said, explaining that foster kids often feel like it’s their fault that they were abandoned. “It’s important to understand that you can defy the odds.”