Could you foster a teenager?
If you are contemplating becoming a foster carer, would you consider fostering teenagers? There are many myths and scare stories about fostering older children that make some people reluctant to do so, but in reality, it can be very rewarding. For an older child, foster care in a loving home can provide the security and support they need to grow into successful adults. Here, we offer information and advice on fostering teenagers.
What is it like to foster teenagers?
When you think about fostering a teenager it may feel daunting; especially if you have been through the teenage years with your own children! It is true that many teenagers who have been in abusive or neglectful situations will have struggles beyond those of the average teenager. Often, these teenagers have emotional difficulties and are at a higher risk of exploitation and self-harm and are likely to have significant trust issues. However, many of our teenagers are some of the most resilient young people we know! Adolescents may take much longer than younger children to accept new family circumstances, especially when this follows a period of upheaval and the fracturing of previously important relationships.
To cope with this, foster carers will need to manage their own expectations in order not to feel disappointment or rejection. The formation of attachments during adolescence involves the creation of trust between adult and young person. When a teenager starts to become too close to an adult this may prove very scary. The fear of being let down again, and the pain that is associated with earlier relationships, can simply overwhelm the them. Where a young person reject forming an attachment with a foster carer, for whatever reason, the foster carer can still play many roles in the young person’s life; they can be advocates, supporters, someone the young person can turn to in times of trouble, a guide and mentor. Foster carers can give teenagers the support they need to make big decisions about the future.
The Impact on Family Life
Some people worry that fostering a teenager will have a negative impact on the carer’s family and children. This is persistent myth and teenagers do not necessarily bring any more issues than younger foster children; often they are difficult to place, simply because they are teenagers. At Acorn Fostering Services, the same robust matching procedures take place, no matter the age of the child or young person. The matching most importantly considers what other children and young people live in the foster home and what the impact of another child may be. The experience of your own children will be regularly reviewed so that their experience of fostering can be a positive one. Many teenagers in foster care have previously had responsibility for looking after younger siblings and are very good with young children; some may have ambitions to work with children in the future (one of our young people that has just left care is now at university training to be a Paediatric Nurse).
It is important for a foster carer to understand that it can be stressful for a teenager to enter a new foster placement; it will take time, patience, and understanding to help this young person adjust to being part of a new family. Under the right circumstances, fostering a teenager can be not only a good experience, but one that teaches children important life skills and inspires them to be more empathetic and emotionally intelligent. Often, foster carers report that welcoming teenaged foster children into their home had a positive influence on the overall home environment.
Helping at a Critical Stage of Life
Another myth surrounding older children and fostering is that teenaged foster children are beyond help. In truth, foster carers can provide teenagers with a normal home life, helping them to develop a mindset that will give them a chance to achieve life goals of which they have only dreamed. Teenagers are still open to the nurturing that all children need, and they often want to move on with their lives. When you foster a teenager, you can help with life skills, guiding them decisions regarding college or jobs, and this is a vital role to play during a critical stage of a child’s life.
Who is qualified to foster teenagers?
Finally, people often think that they need specific qualities to foster teenagers and that they need prior experience but that is simply not true. If you have the desire to open home to a young person, and you believe you can give them the love, support, encouragement and protection necessary you can make a big difference in the life of that young person. If you are concerned you will not know how to go about caring for a teenager, there is no need to worry: your agency will provide you with the training and support you need. You can be part of shaping the next generation, and you are likely to find the experience extremely rewarding.
Are you ready to step up for a young person in need?
Many children in foster care are teenagers, and there is a huge need for carers who can give them a normal family life, with the care they need to develop confidence and independence. Are you interested in becoming a foster carer? At Acorn Fostering Services, we provide good quality foster placements for children and young people, and we are always looking for foster carers who can offer children sensitivity and care. An Ofsted approved and registered independent fostering agency, we are based in Leicester and provide fostering agency services throughout the East and West Midlands and South Yorkshire, helping establish foster families and providing foster parenting help when needed. If you think you have the life experience, qualities and willingness to learn that would help you care for children from diverse backgrounds and age groups with a range of support needs and you want to learn more about fostering, call us on 0116 216 6040, or contact us through our website.