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Published on: 2017-11-20 12:01:35
How long have you been fostering and how long have you been with Nexus?
I have been fostering for 8 and a half years, always with Nexus.
How many placements have you been involved with?
I have had 2 placements, both long term (my current long term has been here since 2009), and I have also done respite care.
How many of these involved teenagers?
My current placement is a teenager, almost 15, though she has been with me since 2009. Respite placements have included teenagers too.
What are the main challenges teenagers present in placement?
That would have to be the physical and emotional change. She is growing up and getting taller than me! Other people noticed she’d grown before I did.
Emotionally and socially, they want to spend more time with friends. In one way, it enables you to teach them about independence and awareness, making decisions. It’s a chance to give them information so they make good choices as a teenager and as they leave your home. It’s all about helping them in their journey.
You hope they would come back to discuss any issues that come up through this increased independence, showing you have built trust with them. Sometimes they might want things to be explained to them. Now, young people are getting their advice from friends, and that can bring challenges in itself.
What are the main ways you think this type of placement helps a young person?
For a teenager, a good placement can teach them about independence, but also trusting an adult. Respecting adults and learning from them.
In placement you can show them that they are grown-ups now, and if you have trust with them you can teach them about listening to criticism and taking in different information.
In a household you can be more caring than you can be in a residential home. In that environment, they might seek advice from their peers rather than a trusted adult. I treat them like I treat my own daughter. I want to do everything for them to the best of my ability, and I want them to do the best of theirs.
What did you find most rewarding about fostering teens?
Well, recently my placement has started thinking about her career. I have always supported her, but also taught her about having a plan ‘b’ and ‘c’.
She said in an educational progress meeting that if her first option doesn’t work out then she can think about other options. Just to hear her say that in her meeting showed me she’s not only been listening to me, but is gaining the confidence to speak in the group and give an opinion.
She would not speak at all in those meetings a couple of years ago! So, it is rewarding to see her confidence build. I’ve noticed her coming out and saying her view, and knowing what she wants.
How would you compare the perception (held by friends/family/ the media) of teenagers in care to your experience of having them in your home?
I would say to someone, don’t be put off by what they hear. You have to take them as they are, an individual.
With all placements, teen or not, you want to be on a respectful level with them, be clear. It all depends on their background and what they’ve been through.
You also have to ensure you are getting the support you need, like from fellow carers, because you will need it!
The thing with teenagers is that some of them have been going through the system for years, so they can be more challenging because they haven’t had stability, or built trust with people. But if you can do that and show them respect it can be amazing.
Do you have 3 top tips for fostering teenagers (e.g. how to help them settle in to your home)?
I have my own little motto: firm, fair and follow through!
Be clear with your boundaries, be respectful and explain things to them properly, don’t say something and don’t do it. Don’t say you’ll show up to their play, and then don’t because that breaks their trust. They want you to stand your ground, so they know they are safe with you.
They will push you to check you are there for them. Teenagers are just big kids, they still want to be needed and loved. They need the stability that a family home can offer.
What is the main message you would like to get across to someone who is learning about fostering for the first time?
Firm fair and follow through! Be like that with yourself too.
You are not just a foster carer alone, you must be part of a foster team (meaning your own family, other carers and Nexus Fostering staff).
They will be there for you emotionally and physically. With your own family, make sure you are all in the decision together. I have a grown daughter who has helped me a lot and I have fostering colleagues, who are such an important support.
Include the fostered child in your family and your life. We have respite/holidays, but most of the time the children just come with you.
Also remember, not all your friends are going to understand fostering, so they might not be able to agree with how you handle some situations, so you have to have some understanding friends and have their support.
Not everyone can do it, so if it’s not for you don’t feel bad about it. But if you can, it’s amazing and you can make a real difference.
If you think you could make a difference to a child’s life in your local area, contact Nexus Fostering today.