Recent statistics show that 39% of children coming into care are aged between 10-15 years old, this is swiftly followed by young people aged 16 years and over at 24%. That makes more than half of children coming into care aged 10 or above, demonstrating a clear need for foster families for pre-teens and teenagers.
There is a common misconception that teenagers are ‘troublemakers’ and that they will be ‘difficult’ to handle. This is untrue! The experience of fostering a teenager will certainly be different from fostering a younger child and may have its challenges and bumps, but there are many amazing rewards to fostering teenagers.
Teenage years are a time of transition. Young people are growing into adults and learning about themselves. Their bodies are also going through physical changes as hormones start to affect their mood and behaviour. It can be a lot to process for any normal teenager and this can sometimes result in ‘acting out’ behaviour. For a child who has potentially spent years in the care system, it can be an especially trying time. Add to this an emerging sexuality and the additional responsibilities of growing up such as school, exams and relationships, there can be an immense amount of pressure on young people.
Teenagers who enter the care system are especially in need of a secure and stable home and the guidance of a supportive and trusted adult. Foster families provide this for them in a time where they may need extra support dealing with their situation and making important life decisions.
This is a fantastic time for you, as a foster parent, to make a difference. Compared to younger children who need more help when it comes to physical care such as cooking, cleaning and generally looking after them, a teenager needs more guidance in actually shaping their future. You can teach them valuable life lessons, essential skills, help them in school and guide their career path as well as their emotional development. Teenagers will be more self-sufficient and may even be easier than young children who demand a lot of time and attention. Older children need independence, personal space and respect to develop their own identity and work out their own problems. This is not to say that teenagers have fully formed personalities, they are still developing and a nurturing family environment will help them to blossom into adulthood.
It is also important to remember that peer groups are especially important to young people. They play a large influential role on their behaviour and attitude. Moving to a foster family or moving foster home can disrupt this peer group and remove the young person from their usual surroundings. This can be unsettling and frustrating. Communication is central for successful foster families with teenagers. It is important that you listen to and respect their views and opinions as a young adult and support them, even if they do ‘lash out’.
Most of all, remember that teenagers are just normal older children who need your love, care, guidance and nurture! Although they may pose some unique challenges, you have the opportunity to help shape their future and make a difference to a young person’s life.
If becoming a foster carer sounds like a rewarding career that would be perfect for you, please get in touch with us today. We are always happy to speak to prospective carers or carers who wish to move agencies. Simply fill out our enquiry form, drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 03301 239355.
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