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Q&A #4 - Caring for teens

Published on: 2017-11-20 12:15:00


How long have you been fostering and how long have you been with Nexus Fostering?

It will be 8 years in February 2018.

How many placements have you been involved with?

Three, my current foster child has been with me for 5 years, although I have done respite placements over this time, too.

How many of these involved teenagers?

One that was my own placement, and also one respite placement who has been to me several times.

If you could describe fostering teens in 3 words, what would they be?

Challenging, frustrating, rewarding.

What are the main challenges teenagers present in placement?

For us, it was that he seemed to be very easily influenced. They are getting much more of a sense of identity, and for a vulnerable teen they can often think they have to live up to an expectation of how people think they should behave.

The other major challenge now is that it is so easy to access, and be accessed via, the internet and social media.

What are the main ways you think this type of placement helps a young person?

Fostering gives the young person a base, somewhere to feel at home (even though they pretend they don’t sometimes). Fostering in your own home opens up opportunities for that young person to get involved with day to day family life and hopefully influences them for the future that people live differently from what they have been used to. Planting little seeds in the mind for the future.

It also enables the young person to start to feel a sense of community; to feel that they don’t have to be out on the streets as they belong somewhere. Over time people around you, and in the community, see the young person which also helps with the sense of belonging somewhere. Somewhere comfortable even if they don’t feel it’s their home, they feel safe.

What did you find most rewarding about fostering teens?

When he would open up and talk, even when he messed up he would know that I would have been informed by the school. Some days he would strop off up to his room, but he usually always came down to talk things through eventually.

It didn’t necessarily stop him doing the same thing again, but it did mean that he was comfortable to talk about things, which is a good start in building positive relationships with them.

How would you compare the perception (perhaps held by friends/family/ the media) of teenagers in care, to your experience of having them in your home?

I think the realisation actually is that most teenagers can be difficult at times. Foster children are no different, but unfortunately can come with a whole host of other issues.

I think people just assume that fostering a teenager is just going to be hard work from start to finish, this isn’t the case. Yes, there are bad times, but there are some wonderfully good, fulfilling, laughter-filled times too.

What is your fondest memory from one of your placements or a particular success story you would like to share, about a teen who was placed with you?

One placement didn’t end particularly well (due to the young person absconding) I did visit him a number of times to talk things through. He still didn’t want to come back, but I did realise that this was because he had dared to care about us and, in his mind, this made him feel like he had let us down.

However, about 4 years ago he tracked me down via Facebook, we would talk on the phone a lot, as well as talking on messenger.

He is now 21 and we speak at least weekly now and he always asks about the family, I took him out for a (legal) pint when he turned 18 and, although he lives about an hour away, so I don’t see him very often, he knows I am always on the end of the phone.

He asked me a few years ago if he could call me “Dad” as he didn’t want to call me Gaz anymore, this was an incredibly proud moment for me as it made me realise the impact we, as a fostering family had on him while he was living with us for the 15 months that he did.

Do you have 3 top tips for fostering teenagers (e.g. how to help them settle in to your home)?

Give them lots of space to settle in and lots of space when they are having a bad time. Just make sure you give a clear message that you are available to talk when they are ready and be ready to be available.

Clear expectation of house rules from the start, e.g. If the WIFI needs to go off at 9 then it goes off at 9. Boundaries make them feel secure.

Have fun with them, music is always a good talking point, try to get on a level with them, find out their interests, listen to their music with an open mind. You may like it and also gives something in common straight away.

If the music they like is on in the kitchen, for example, it makes it a more inviting place for them to come and spend time and start to build relationships with you.

If you’re a part of a fostering family, how did your family / birth children find bringing a teen into their home?

My children were both very little at the time Hayden was 3 and Maya was only 8 months old. I did explain to Hayden what was happening and also that he had to give our young person space and they wouldn’t be into playing the same things as him. I had to explain this in reverse to the young person, e.g. no loud TV as the little ones were sleeping etc. They all adapted quickly.

Why did you choose to foster with Nexus Fostering?

I was impressed with their ‘non-pushy’ style, they took time to get to know us and in no way did we ever feel pressured. I also liked the fact the office we deal with have a small team where you know everyone’s name and they know you.

How have Nexus Fostering supported you in your fostering journey, in particular, with any challenges that came from fostering teens.

They are always there on the end of the phone, day or night, they follow up on things they say they will, and always listen to my concerns and work with me on ways of solving any problems. I have used the emergency number more than once, and always was given helpful support and advice.

What is the main message you would like to get across to someone who is learning about fostering for the first time?

Go in with an open mind, ready to learn and think on your feet quickly to adapt to a situation. Don’t be afraid to challenge your own views and perceptions and use the help and support available. 

Nexus Fostering

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