Hi, my name is Chrissy,
I have a daughter Elizabeth she is currently 8 years old. We would love to share with you our experiences with fostering teenagers.
I have over the years fostered many teenagers. Five to be exact. No I am not a machine, nor am I oblivious to the challenges everyone faces when parenting/raising or fostering a teenager. My experience have been varied and I would like to share with you the positives to taking on a teenager.
Many shy away from taking a teenager into their home and here are some of the reasons why…
- We have all heard the stories from many in the Fostering community that their young person is always missing from placement. They never return or never home on time.
- We hear stories about how they address us and their environment.
- Using the house like a hotel.
All sound familiar?
Well let me shed some light on the positives. My first teenager was very distant. Had a life of her own before coming into my care. She had her own set of friends. Went to school independently. Was accountable for herself. She followed her own set of rules and made her own boundaries. She did what she wanted and went where she pleased.
After coming into my care and loving in my home. I am sure she was overwhelmed with the rules and safer caring policy. I am sure that this all seemed alien to her. I am sure that all of a sudden she has to follow rules, boundaries and had to make sure she informed me of her whereabouts. Theses things were non negotiable (keeping in with the placement agreement and safer caring policy set out by the agency and Local authority) I am confident that this provoked feelings inside her we could never understand.
Not only did this YP not ask for this situation but now she has to follow rules from a stranger and claims that it’s to keep her safe. Something she has been doing herself for many years.
I first was met with this challenge within the first year of fostering. I can tell you that it isn’t much fun when you have never been faced with a teenager before. But I embraced all that was available to me. Went on as many courses as I could. Gained confidence in my abilities. Then applied this to my young person.
To my amazement and joy, with every day that passed life got easier for myself and my young person. We established a great relationship of mutual respect and trust. We lived separate but joined lives, and in time we became close. She trusted I was there to help guide and care for her. She trusted to come to me. She trusted that even if she made mistakes, we would be able together to resolve them.
We did make positive steps. We worked together in making agreements about home times. We worked together with house chores.
We shared stories together and went for meals. We shared in liked interests and explored new ones together.
I helped her emotional development, through communication and role modelling. Slowly but surely I saw what can only be described as a metamorphosis. It was beautiful to watch her grow and blossom. I saw with my own eyes her mature.
My YP taught me a lot about the here and now. The world of teenagers. Allowed me access to how they view the world today, and how much it differs from when I was a teenager. She gave me much more than I expected.
I am grateful for that early experience and will hold that close to my heart as I will all my placements.
I guess I wanted to say that there is so much more to teenagers than meets the eye. Don’t see it as a challenge but a chance to grow.
If you’d like to find out more about fostering then get in touch on 0208 347 8741 or download our guide here
Fostering doesn’t only change the lives of children in care, it also affects the lives of the foster carers birth children.
Princess’ mum became a foster carer, this is her story.
When I was 16 I didn’t care about much else but hanging out with my friends and family, listening to music, animals and beating all my guy friends at the latest PlayStation games just to prove that girls can do anything boys can, but better! So it was a big surprise for me when my mother told me that she wanted to be a foster carer. I wasn’t all too sure what that would mean, but I knew my mother was very excited about it as she told me with a big smile on her face. She absolutely adores children and helping others who are in need, so of course it was perfect for her. But honestly I wasn’t too sure.
Being the youngest out of five I was always used to being the centre of attention and the one everyone spoils, so the idea that someone much smaller than me could be living with us for a while was bizarre to me. I had lots of questions ‘ what will these children be like?’ , ‘What if someone my age comes and we don’t get along?’, ‘Will they stay with us forever?’. My mother told me that it would be a lovely thing to do to help a child who may be in a situation where their childhood wasn’t as great as mine was and she reminded me just how much I loved and enjoyed my niece and nephew. Which was true…apart from the changing of their nappies and having them draw all over my bedroom walls I did love children as much as my mother and my whole family did too. I imagined myself being a big sister to them and teaching them all the things I know like how to balance a spoon on your nose and the importance of taking in part in games but never getting sour grapes if you lose…just get them back next time by being better!
So when the time came and we fostered a brother and sister who were under the age of 5, I was nervous but excited to get to know them. It was such a lovely experience, especially as I had never been a big sister before but now I had to help my mother look after two little ones who looked up to me.
They were funny and had so much personality and I felt myself filling up with so much love for them and just wanting them to have a great time whilst they were with us. When we were eventually told that they were going to be adopted, I was shocked and upset as it meant they would be leaving us soon. I wouldn’t be a big sister anymore. I spoke to my mother about how I was feeling and I’m glad I did as she assured me that it was a good thing and that it was always going to be short term. She also mentioned to me that they would be going to two nice people who have always wanted children and we should be happy about this. I sulked for a while and went to my room blasting out some emotional music and was thinking to myself ‘this isn’t fair!’ But when I met the adoptive parents my feelings changed and I saw that the kids really liked them. They were happy. The parents thanked us for everything we had done with the kids and that my mother was a great foster carer and they had enjoyed this time with her helping them to get to know the children. I beamed at my mother and thought I have never been so proud of her. It was true she was amazing at what she did.
Now over ten years later my mother is still fostering children and me being at home still has made me witness just what it is like to be in family who foster.
My brothers and sisters don’t live at home anymore however they are also fully involved when we foster children or mother and child placements. We are a close knit family so we like getting everyone together including the foster placements (children or mother and child), for picnics in the park, dinners and occasionally a game of bowling which will always begin with my brother thinking he can beat everyone and then soon realising he has the lowest score! Every foster placement we have had enjoyed being involved and treated like they were family, which I think is very important if you want to be a foster carer.
For me now I mostly help my mother with caring for the children we may have whether it be to babysit, to cook dinner or to help them with homework… but certainly not maths it’s always been my worst subject! So I am quite involved with the everyday care which is not an issue to me as it’s always been a part of my life for a long time now.
Fostering has affected me by making me a better person I think. Not that I wasn’t before, but it’s really made me sensitive to others situations and has made me realise how important it is for everyone to be cared for and to live somewhere where they feel safe. Which I think are little things we tend to take for granted. Just seeing children and young people progressing and making good changes in their lives, smiling more and genuinely being happy makes it all worth it.
This is also in the case of mother and child placements. Seeing mothers figuring out what’s best for their child/children and gaining advice from my mother or myself and putting it into action; then finally getting their children back in their full care. It’s enough to make you happy about what you do and experience just how rewarding fostering is.
We work hard with mothers and at times this can be challenging, as a lot don’t like the idea of someone telling them how to look after their own child. Which I feel is understandable. However being patient with them and reminding yourself just how they must feel living in another’s home and having people involved heavily in their life, helps you to connect with them. Thus they feel they can see you more like a friend who only wants the best for them and especially their child. Which hopefully results in them making better choices and leaving placement with smile on their face as they walk out the door with their child.
Overall I would say fostering is an amazing thing to do. My advice for anyone who wants to foster is to go for it ! If you love children and feel you can bring some sunshine to their life for however long you have them, then do it. Yes it can be hard at times accepting others in your home, or having another child amongst the ones you have already (including emotional teenagers like I was haha) but you will get to see just how wonderful it is to make a great impact on someone’s life.