There is a growing need for foster carers to offer safe and stable environments to children and young people over the age of 12.  I believe there is a misconception that caring for a younger child is theoretically easier.  Children and young people who come into care have generally encountered, and in many ways suffered, tremendous hardships that understandably impacts on their abilities to appropriately socially interact thereby inhibiting their capability to build healthy, caring relationships.  Such background experiences can also impact on their behaviour as they struggle to trust the adults around them and identify the reasons behind their emotions.  Life is a whirlwind and they need your help to navigate through such difficult times and put them back on an even keel – whatever their age.

Unfortunately, research informs us that the UK is struggling to find enough foster carers for teenagers.  We all know, and must acknowledge the teenage years are notorious regardless of whether young people have experienced being in care or not.  The potential perils of caring for a teenager are therefore well known, but there is also a heap of potential rewards that sometimes get marginalised because they are positive rather than negative.

In my fostering career, I have experienced many rewarding foster placements of teenagers and have been amazed at the commitment and joy such young people can bring to their fostering families. Here are some of the reasons why:

•    They have a degree of independence and will require less reliance on their care-giver.
•    They need your influence and guidance to educate and steer them into adulthood.  You would be instrumental in helping and assisting their life chances.
•    You would also teach them life skills – the changes you would see would be much more visible.
•    They are inter-relational and have the communication skills to be able to reason and compromise.
•    They want to be accepted for who they are – there will be many opportunities to help build self-esteem and confidence.
•    They want boundaries that are fair.  They appreciate consistency and the knowledge that they can contribute to the making of the rules with you.
•    They are just normal teenagers in a lot of respects!  They require safety and the security of a loving foster family.
•    They are not that scary.  Yes, they may get confused and angry at times.  They however need your patience, your attention when the time is right, and most importantly, your acceptance for who they are and what they have been through. 

So, are you up for a very rewarding challenge?  You could make such a difference to a young person’s life and Fostering to Inspire would be there to support you and your family every step of the way.  Be willing to explore and investigate an aspect of fostering you may never have thought about before.  Regardless of age, all looked after children and young people have the same needs and you may just be the perfect fit for a teenager who needs help to get their life back on track.

For further information, or to make an enquiry with Fostering to Inspire please telephone 01924 792 184 or email enquiries@fosteringtoinspire.co.uk