There is a real need for foster carers to look after teenagers. The latest national statistics tell us that during 2014 alone, children and young people aged 10 and over, accounted for 43% of all children that needed to be found a new home during last year.
If we looked at all the children ‘in care’ during 2014, nearly 60% were aged 10 and over; By a long way, this age range accounts for the greatest amount of children being fostered.
So, it’s already evident to see, that whilst many reports and campaigns highlight the need for more foster carers across the country, there perhaps needs to be a greater focus on seeking foster carers for teenagers, as this is where foster carers are needed the most.
Sadly, many people that want to become foster carers, have a view that ‘the older the child, the more challenges there will be’, and therefore want to look after younger children, as it’s perhaps ‘easier’!
This blog wants to dispel that myth: I’m not saying younger children are more challenging, but what I am saying is that the vast majority of children of all ages needing foster placements will have experienced abuse and/or neglect and whether suffering this at 5 or 15, the child or young person will have a need to feel safe, protected and cared for by foster carers. Whether 5 or 15, the child or young person can present challenges. Whether 5 or 15 the child or young person can be a joy to care for and to support to adapt and develop to meet their full potential.
We only have to look at the statistics to realise the significant proportion of older children (teenagers) are settled and doing well in their foster families. In Nexus Fostering, around 57% of our looked after children are aged 10 and above and most of these young people want to remain with their carers up to adulthood. We have 5 other young people who have remained with their former foster carers after 18 under ‘staying put’ arrangements. This shows that fostering teenagers is achievable, enjoyable and rewarding and can lead to longer term commitments.
Sometimes the media doesn’t help! Teenagers can be seen as aggressive, taking drugs, drinking, hanging out on street corners and many other clichés. Some do….. but the vast majority don’t! This is true of the young people who need foster carers. A minority require additional support for substance misuse, anti-social behaviour etc., but the majority don’t. But they all need to be understood, supported and to be given a chance.
Teenage years are an important time (as we all know!). It’s when we start to ‘find ourselves’, become more independent, have girlfriends, boyfriends, take exams, learn to drive, get jobs, develop our interests, start to challenge others to make sense of the world and much more. It’s an exciting time for many who have lots of support through their families to achieve all these things, but it can be a sad and lonely time for others that cannot live at home. Foster carers can change this.
Supporting teenagers through these transitional years can be great fun, rewarding and an opportunity to help a young person step into adulthood with goals and dreams.
At Nexus Fostering we have young people excelling in sports, music, achieving grades to go to college and university, engaging in work and even helping us train our foster carers!
Being a teenager isn’t always easy, and parenting a teenager isn’t always easy. Some will have challenging behaviour at times, but this is a small part of that young person. The greater part of all young people is their potential. Some need a little more support than others to unlock that potential; perhaps you hold the key?