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Why Foster Teenagers (3 Facts People Don’t Think About)

Read 3 reasons why teenagers are so much fun (and so rewarding) to foster. In fact, foster carers are often surprised at how wonderful the experience is.

Have you read this poem by Portia Nelson? It’s called Autobiography in 5 Short Chapters:

Chapter I

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in.

I am lost … I am helpless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes me forever to find a way out.

Chapter II

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am in the same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in … it’s a habit.

My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

Chapter V

I walk down another street.

(Source: Wikipedia)

I love this poem because it speaks so directly to fostering

I’ve worked with hundreds of teenagers in care, and so many think of themselves like the person in this poem. It’s the foster carers who show them how to get out of the hole, then walk around it and then choose another street.

And there’s nothing like the experience of seeing young people walk down that other street (and knowing you helped them find that path).

Unfortunately, teenagers have a harder time because there’s such a shortage of foster carers for their age group

All of us at Perpetual are great champions of teenagers, and our foster carers are often surprised at how wonderful the experience is.

Here are 3 reasons why teenagers are so much fun (and so rewarding) to foster.

  1. It’s easier to communicate with teenagers

Preschool and primary school children are still developing their language and communication skills, which means they can’t always tell you what’s going on in their head.

Teenagers can talk about their anxieties, so it can be easier to help them.

Think about how you felt and what you worried about when you were a teenager. Teenagers today have a similar experience. Channel those memories and you’ll be able to build a rapport. And when you show you empathise and care, young people will open up to you.

  1. You often see faster improvement

Teenagers in care have faced rejection, and it’s amazing what difference a caring family and stable home environment make.

One teenager had never had a structured evening routine. We helped the foster carer put one in place, so each day there was a proper evening meal and a sequence for getting ready for bed (which included bedtime reading).

We all saw a massive turnaround very quickly. The teenager started asking to go to school and commented on how enjoyable the new routine was. Think about it – it’s hard to focus and function when you’re sleep deprived, and by helping this young person get a proper night’s sleep regularly, the foster carer made a massive difference.

  1. Teenagers are more independent, and your role is to encourage their independence

Teenagers can walk to school and take the bus. They have strengths and interests – they’re in cadets, love ice skating and play sport. Many have friendships with their peers and relationships with other adults, like teachers and people who lead their activities.

Your job is to promote their independence and enable them to go out in the world. It’s much more about cooperation between you and the young person.

One of our panel members (people who approve foster carers) was in care herself. Her name’s Rachel, and her experience shows the long-term impact you can have:

I was placed in foster care with my siblings when I was 7 years old. For the next 5 years I was placed in over 10 different short-term foster homes including a children’s home. When I was 11, a married couple (who I had been riding horses for) put in an application to foster me. They had never been foster parents and have never fostered since, but from that moment forward my life began to turn around.

I graduated from university with an honours degree and have worked for 20 years in health and community development. I currently manage a team of staff working with disadvantaged people.

I am very happy to say I have broken the cycle of abuse and chaos I suffered as a child and am very proud to have 2 amazing daughters who are living the childhood that I dreamt of. My passion today is ensuring everyone is given that same chance that I received so that they can turn their life around too.

You can achieve what Rachel’s foster parents achieved. Why miss the opportunity?

To learn more about what’s involved in becoming a foster carer, download our free Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Foster Carer.

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During your lunch break, or the time you spend checking Facebook, another child will come into care. Right now, that child is thinking: 'Who cares?' More Videos
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