LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Adoption specialists say the older a child is, the tougher finding them a home. But the teenager THV 11 met is not giving up hope.
Fifteen-year-old AJ loves to cook, and at Little Rock's Local Lime restaurant, Ben Brainard taught him the basics of Mexican gourmet
"This is actually the first time we've ever done this," said Brainard as he shows AJ freshly shucked gulf oysters. "You'll be the first person to ever cook these in this restaurant."
AJ finds cooking theraputic.
"I'm pretty excited because I love cooking, and I do like this restaurant," said AJ.
The aroma, the heat, and the creativity serve up happy thoughts.
"Cooking always makes me think of my dad, and all the good memories we had because he tried to teach me how to cook, gave me his secret recipes," AJ explained.
That was before AJ's dad went to jail and later disappeared. It was before his mother's abuse. It all left AJ to fend for himself, moving from one foster home to the next since the age of 6.
"I feel like I've been betrayed a lot," said AJ. "Because of all the places I've been. I've been in so many foster homes. I can't even think about it anymore. And, it's just all the trust is pretty much gone, and I'm trying to love people, but they don't love you back."
AJ said he would give anything to see his father again.
"I'd ask him how he's been doing," he said. "And, why he would've just disappeared off the face of the earth, and why he would leave me here alone by myself."
AJ knows that day may never come and chooses instead to focus on cooking and writing. He loves to write poetry and books. It's all an effort to transform his heartbreak and grief into something positive, creative and tasty.
"My friend, you just grilled the first oysters Local Lime has ever seen," Brainard told AJ.
That's a first for AJ who's hoping for another first: a family.
"I understand as a teenager, it's a lot different than being a baby," AJ said. "...Most people want to adopt a baby and start off new. I just want to be able to live like a normal teenager, have a phone and talk to friends, go to friends' houses, movies with friends. I've never been able to do that being in foster care."
But during his day at Local Lime, he learned new lessons, ate new food, and find a new friend.
"Bring some friends in, and come see us," Brainard told AJ. "I'm going to buy you dinner. I appreciate you helping me. Thank you so much man."
Special thanks to Ben Brainard and Local Lime for the cooking lesson. They gave AJ a gift card to come eat with his friends.
If you'd like more information on AJ or any of the state children up for adoption, click on the Arkansas Department of Human Services adoption website.
There are no costs associated with adopting a child in state care.