Many people won’t consider the idea of fostering teenagers because of the sometimes negative public image associated with them. They may be seen as aggressive, noisy and uncooperative. But a brash exterior often hides other, positive qualities. As a result of these misconceptions, many individuals who could provide a young person with a nurturing home are deterred from fostering teenagers.
We want to highlight the positive benefits of caring for older children and encourage those interested in fostering, to specifically consider this age group. Here are a few stories from our carers who highlight the positives of fostering older children…
Dianne and Paul, who live in Warrington, have been fostering for nine years and particularly enjoy caring for teenagers. Dianne is a part-time Youth Worker and it was through her work with vulnerable young people that led her to fostering. She and Paul currently foster two teenagers and have helped them both overcome difficulties in their young lives to eventually excel in exams and for one to go onto an apprenticeship.
Dianne said: “It’s hard enough being a teenager but when children experience hardship and struggles early on in life, it adds another dimension. Fostering is about providing a positive environment for them and having an impact that will set them on a better and more stable path. It can be very emotional at times and you need lots of patience and tolerance. However, the most important quality is to be able to listen and work with that young person, to guide them to make positive choices that will lead to emotional well-being and bright futures.”
Dianne goes onto say “Foster4 provide a great network of support and training. Through its foster forum, there are lots of other carers you can speak to and share advice with, it is like a mini community that is there to support you on top of all the other help you receive from support workers.
Being a foster carer is very rewarding, not least to see a young person develop and grow as a result of your guidance and care.”
Margaret is a single carer, now retired from work, living in Winsford, and has been fostering for three years, having specifically enquired with a view to fostering teenagers. Margaret, a former mental health nurse with a background in training, found a real connection with teenagers when she took over a YTS training scheme when working at a local college. Whilst working with young people on the YTS scheme, Margaret enjoyed guiding young people to help them unleash their true potential. Having previous experience with this age group, she was then inspired to pursue becoming a foster carer.
Margaret said: “I find the teenage years to be fascinating and interesting as you see a child develop toward adulthood. The teenager I foster is nearly 16 years old now. It has been amazing to see him grow and develop, and to help influence his life in such a positive way. Teenagers are often perceived to be difficult or demanding but in my experience it is about building rapport and mutual respect with someone.
He has been brilliant during the lockdown, even though he hasn’t been able to go outside and mix with his friends. I was worried that it might affect his mental health as he really enjoys being outdoors, but he has shown me how resilient he is, as well as being a kind and thoughtful young man.”
Margaret goes onto say “The trauma informed training course I did with Foster4 was brilliant and not only helped me to understand and communicate better with the young person, but also taught me to check my own behaviour, addressing issues more calmly and sensitively.
I really enjoy being a foster carer, it has taught me patience and not to take anything for granted. If you like children you will love fostering!”
Debbie, a single foster carer from Runcorn, has been fostering for sometime. She says, “I’ve cared for this age group over the past ten years – long and short term and in an emergency. All of them have come to me wanting a safe and less hectic space to live, to be able to have someone give them priority and attention and listen and act on what they consider to be important. This includes, to advocate and show results, to support them to thrive and to provide them with new experiences which give a positive aspect of how much better life can be.”
Debbie also says: “These things take time and patience to really show you care and become a trusting adult for young people. Two young people I’ve supported recently went on to live independently, when they decided they were ready (at almost twenty years old!). The service of care and mutual planning with Halton Council has made their transition effortless”.