We have been fostering for almost 10 years, and have had the enjoyment and fulfilment of caring for 4 teenagers; they all stayed until adulthood and beyond.
I say ‘fulfilment’ with honesty. When they first arrive, you wonder how it’s all going to work out.
When you have to make police reports and pick them up off the streets late at night, you often want to give up. Then we remember what they have been through and what they need to become successful adults and we carry on because we care passionately.
Being a teenager is scary, they think they are adults but rarely have the emotional maturity to manage adult decisions, cope with their own emotions, accept being told what to do etc. The teens we work with may have been making their own decisions for many years, they may have been looking after siblings, parents etc.
They may have forgotten, or not experienced, feeling like a child.
Past experiences of hurt and rejection will play a major role in how the young person adjusts to you, your family, and your home environment. These are all traumas in a YP life and added to the lack of discipline will mean they are not going to fit into our expectations.
Imagine walking down and corridor with many doors – doors of opportunity – you may have the choice to decide which ones you open and whether you go in and try out whatever is inside. Education, drugs, crime, love, family, commitment etc.
Or you may not have this choice.
Outcomes for teenagers depend on all the things they sample.
I think the most important thing to remember is not to take it personally; they’ve had experience of parents and don’t want a replacement mum and dad; they want to feel cared for, accepted, self-confident, important, and worthwhile – isn’t this what we aim to do for every child we care for?
It’s no different just because they’re older, but will probably be harder.
Being asked by a teen if they can stay beyond the magic age of 18 is an amazing feeling, seeing an 18-year-old move onto successful independence is even better, and being asked if they can “come home for Christmas” fills us with confidence and the certainty that we can do it again.
Julie Brown, Foster Carer