NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — Whenever 12-year-old Malena’s around it’s never a dull moment. “Sup dudes,” she said as she looked directly into the camera as she was getting ready to be interviewed about what kind of family she hopes to have someday.
Malena is eligible for adoption through the Arkansas Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and currently lives in the state’s care.
“I got sexually abused by four people,” Malena said.
This is her second time in foster care. Brenna McClure, Malena’s adoption specialist with DCFS, said the sexual abuse Malena described is what led to her initial removal from her biological home. She ended up being placed back in her mother’s care but was removed a second and final time when the abuse continued.
It’s been difficult for Malena to adjust to life in foster care. She has lived in multiple different foster homes and even stayed for a long while at Vantage Point Behavioral Health Hospital in Fayetteville.
“I have to get used to another [foster family/ facility] and then I just move away from them and then I get used to another and then they move me,” she said.
McClure said, “she would call me sometimes crying, like, I want to go home but I don’t have a home so, she definitely wants permanency, she wants to be adopted.”
An ideal family in Malena’s mind is one that accepts her for who she is and looks similar to her. “My color. my personality, my craziness,” she said.
Because of her history of sexual abuse, Malena was also adamant that she does not want a father figure, but would be okay with having siblings.
McClure said she thought a two-parent household would be beneficial for Malena though, mainly because of her mental health needs. The sixth-grader has been in therapy and counseling as a way to deal with all she endured in her past.
“[My counselor] told me whatever I do just try to be nice,” Malena said. At times she struggles with feeling sad or depressed and she has learned to control her anger by “talking or deep breathing or thinking about good thoughts.”
McClure said it’s important that a family considering adopting Malena be one that’s willing to invest time and effort into her mentally. She said Malena needs a family that’ll attend counseling or therapy with her and individually, to learn her triggers and how to deescalate situations.
“She’s going to have times where she’s going to have meltdowns, she’s going to have fits, especially when she’s transitioning, but it does get better,” McClure said.
McClure also noted that Malena cannot be around animals without adult supervision. This is due to her witnessing family members be violent toward animals when angry.
Despite all the trauma she endured throughout her childhood, Malena is truly a bright light. She loves to make others laugh by making funny faces and silly noises.
She enjoys watching TV, specifically Disney and Netflix Kids, and like most kids, she likes to run around and play.
If you’re interested in learning more about Malena, visit Project Zero’s website.