I have been fostering for a total of 18 years, and working with Nexus Fostering since September 2009.
I went to panel in Jan 2010 and had my first placement the day after panel. Right now, I have a 16-year-old girl in placement. A current challenge is to get her to be honest as she tends to lie about everyday bits even when there is no reason to lie; she tells me it’s because she is used to lying to get what she wants.
Other challenges that I am facing are helping her see that she has a potentially very good future ahead of her and encouraging her to take the appropriate steps to achieve it. For example, she is doing really well on her main course but can’t progress to the next level without GCSE Math and English; but as she doesn’t like attending those lessons, she often misses them.
Most teenagers have a level of emotional issues that usually come from their traumatic backgrounds and even the move to me (or any new placement) can be a traumatic issue for many – I am unknown to them. This presents its own challenges but by showing understanding and patience a lot of the scary first emotional hurdles are overcome.
As a foster carer I have at times felt like a young person has made significant achievements only to regress – I have learned that this is normal and teenagers especially, do have their wobbles but the rewards are at the end of their placement, when you can look back as see how far they have achieved.
When a young person comes into my family, I feel the benefit to them is that they gain a family-based environment where they, as individuals, can observe appropriate family interactions – this, in my opinion, is something that can be lost if a teenager lives in a residential home.
In a foster carers home there are more opportunities for teenagers to have 1:1 with carers, this allows for better emotional support for them and also better opportunities to learn how to be independent. Allowing a young person to grow, and watching them become empowered by knowledge and confidence is very rewarding.
It is often believed that teenagers are “ready built” with negative opinions of the world and thus appear quite a daunting task for some carers – this isn’t the case.
Each young person is just as nervous of you as you are of them, and that is okay.
At the end of the day it is important to remember that these young people are still just children that have missed out on something important in their lives – our job is to help them gain back what they have missed.
Working with and for what the child or young person wants, and not against them, helps them see that you understand what is important to them and therefore see you care – in time they will show you that they care for you, too.
A top tip of mine, on which my most of my past placements have remarked: Greet the young person and smile. Talk to them and not just the officials. It is easy to be swept away by the “job” side of things and forget the “introduction to the family” side of things.
Could you join people like Chris from Gloucester? Make an enquiry and we’ll call you back!