A lot of the young people in our care at Compass Fostering are teenagers. Unfortunately, some people think teenagers will be difficult, distant, or troublemakers – but often the relationships between teens and their foster carers are some of the strongest and most rewarding we see.
“We love fostering,” say two of our foster carers, Mark and Nick. “We get to watch these teenagers achieve things they never thought they could. We give them the chance to blossom and be who they want to be.”
In fact, because of their age, teens will remember their time with you forever. Mark and Nick’s first teen foster, Luke, came to them at 16 – and is still with them 7 years later as part of a Staying Put placement.
“Probably within the first week of Luke living with us, we knew we wanted him to stay for a long time,” they say. “The comfort was there straight away, and we knew this would be a lifelong relationship. He was just 16 years late coming to us.”
Here are a few helpful tips for bringing a teenager into your home.
Take a child-centred approach
When you prepare to welcome a foster child, you’ll be given important information about their background. Be mindful that a teenager in care may have been exposed to some dangerous and upsetting circumstances, such as drug and alcohol abuse, violence, or sexual exploitation.
Be prepared. Learn everything you can about their history, and seek any training or support you need to meet their needs. You can read more about the support we give our foster carers here.
Give them privacy
Privacy is important for any teenager – and it’s a two-way street. Give them their privacy, and teach them to respect yours. Knock before entering their room, and don’t go through their personal stuff. At this stage in life, children are learning to become independent and it’s important that you support that.
“We keep on top of internet usage, but we don’t go snooping,” say Mark and Nick, “we just make sure they’re using safe sites. Prying is only going to make a teenager want you to butt out completely.”
It’s also important to keep an eye out for their safety. Talk to your supervising social worker to know what signs to look out for.
Accept them as they are
This stage in life can be confusing for some teens who are struggling with self-acceptance. When Luke came to stay with Mark and Nick, he was grappling with his own identity.
“We could see that he needed us,” says Nick. “When our social worker asked me why I wanted to foster, I said it was because I would love to be able to help a teenage boy come to terms with his identity, or sexuality, because I remember as a kid how I struggled. And then we got the call for Luke.”
The teenage years are a stressful time for every child, so it’s important that your foster child knows you accept them. Teens can have a lot of opinions, so listen to what they have to say. Show them you’re paying attention by incorporating their likes into your routines.
Fostering teenagers won’t always be easy, but it will always be worth it! Your care can offer a safe and secure environment for a vulnerable teenager at a crucial moment in their development. Be resilient, and don’t take anything personally. The most important thing you can do for them is stick around.
“Luke had a voice, but he wouldn’t use it,” say Mark and Nick. “He had all sorts of social workers that he could go to, but he wouldn’t unless he was talking to people that he trusted. At that time, we were his only way to get through the rubbish that he went through.”
“We supported him 100% through that. And we even said that if his time with us didn’t work out or it ended, we would always be there for him, no matter what.”
If you think you have what it takes to be a foster parent and foster teenagers, please get in touch. We’d love to welcome you into the Compass Fostering family.