ARKANSAS, USA — "How long do I have to wait?"
"How long until a family says they want me?"
These are just two examples of questions children in Arkansas foster care ask themselves every day.
Can you imagine?
At 16 years old, Anndreka peels back the layers in our conversation with her, as she snips away year after year in care, waiting for a place to call home.
"I like to do makeup and hair," Anndreka said.
It's not every day that Anndreka gets the kind of one-on-one attention she received from the Paul Mitchell studio's learning leader Melanie Miller, who instructs hair stylists on how to do what they do.
"You got it! You good!" Miller offers words of encouragement as Anndreka practices hair techniques on a mannequin at the studio.
It's what Anndreka wants to do. At 16, she already has a dream--to be a stylist and own a salon of her own.
"I did a couple different styles," Anndreka said, explaining what she learned at Paul Mitchell. "A wave, a fleather, and I forgot the other one."
She's off to a good start--curling, straightening, fixing just a mannequin, and pampering herself.
"I did these by myself," she said, referring to her own braids.
The braids are perfectly done. Her makeup was stunningly natural. She's beautiful inside and out.
But like a lot of children in foster care, Anndreka is her own worst enemy.
"I always think I'm not good enough for other people," she said. "People that take me in, when I get too close, I mess up, so I'm scared to get too close to a person and mess up. That's one of my fears; to get too close."
...To get too close. Yet, that is what Anndreka wants more than anything.
"I would love for her to find a forever home; two-parent or single-parent home, loving, caring home where she can be a normal teen," Anndreka's adoption specialist Omni Kelley said.
"And love and care about her, that are able to nourish her and encourage her and help her with her dreams. And she does have a big dream to be in cosmetology," she added.
Anndreka said her instructor for the day was really nice, easy to talk to, and easy to learn from--and that's exactly what she wants from a family of her own.
"I just want a family. That's it," she said.
Just a family. It seems like a reasonable request from a girl pushing her way through the system, and praying for a way out.
"Yeah, it makes me upset a little bit, but I won't let that get to my daily life," she said.
Kelly said Anndreka's been waiting since 2016. She's been waiting long enough.
The Paul Mitchell Imagine Salon in North Little Rock trains stylists, and they invited Anndreka back for workshops. We'd like to thank the salon and Melanie Miller for the attention they gave to Anndreka.