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'She just needed somebody to help her'—principal adopts student after she's suspended

An unlikely family will celebrate their ninth Christmas together this year.

principal adopts student adoption, adoption stories, foster care
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Girl sitting in detention

Get ready folks, this story is a bit of a tearjerker.

Back in 2015, Jason Smith, a school principal, met a sixth-grade girl sitting outside his office, waiting to be reprimanded for throwing yogurt at a classmate during lunch.

That girl, Raven Whitaker, would later become his daughter.

Smith recalled with Good Morning America that the 11-year-old looked like a “sweet,” “innocent” child as she admitted to him what she had done.

Trying to reason with her, Smith asked, "Well, if you were out at a restaurant, would you do that there?'"

And that was when Raven told him that she had never really been to a restaurant. As she explained to WTHR, she had spent most of her life in the foster care system, suffering under terrible conditions, and was currently living in a group home.

This immediately touched Smith. "At that point, I had felt like she just needed a hand, needed help," he told GMA. "I recognized that she needed something to go in her favor, maybe for once, that it hadn't gone in her favor in the past, but she just needed somebody to help her."

Smith went home to explore the idea of fostering Raven with his wife Marybeth. This was, understandably, a touchy subject, as the couple had wanted children of their own and not only struggled through infertility treatments, but also already had fostered kids.

But Marybeth knew her husband must have felt “passionate” about it, so they gave it some thought. And eventually they reached out to begin the fostering process. Raven ended up moving into their home in June 2015. And on Nov. 3, 2017, as Raven entered high school, the Smiths formally adopted her.

Despite it seeming strange at first, Raven noted that the Smiths made her “feel extremely welcome, like I was already in the family. They got everything that I needed without even knowing that I would be there forever. They just did it."

She even looks back and says she “always knew” that the Smiths would end up being her permanent family. And with that support system in place, Raven Whitaker (make that Raven Whitaker-Smith) overcame the odds. Now 20, Raven is in college studying social work and sharing her story to offer some hope to others in similar situations.

It’s amazing what miracles can happen for kids when they are placed in a loving environment. As principal-turned-dad Jason Smith told GMA, “there are no bad children…given the right opportunity, given the proper support, love and affection, all children can be successful."

Watch the full story below.

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