Janet Wright - 30th September 2022
No doubt about it, teenagers get a bad rap. I’m one of those rare, but I know much needed, foster carers who only foster teens. Why? I hear you gasp.
I love babies and younger children, but there’s something about teens that I find so rewarding. Sure, it can be hard to keep up to speed with their world: social media, language, trends. Keeping them safe is so much harder than it used to be.
Teenagers are interesting.
They may not always be interested in interesting things (in my view), but as human beings, they have so much to offer. Undoubtedly, over the last few years, the teens we see come into foster care are more complex. The reasons for this are varied: Covid I’m sure has played a major role. Many of our teens have suffered long-term exposure to mental ill health, substance abuse and domestic violence, none of which make good bedfellows with lockdowns. In addition to this, education has been disrupted and the world increasingly feels like a hopeless place for them.
Despite all this, they offer a fresh perspective. There is nothing quite like a good conversation with a teenager. I’ve found that once you gain their trust, they open up and when they do, it’s like finding treasure. In many cases, they just want someone solid who sees them and hears them. Someone who believes in them.
Many of them don’t like the boundaries we as foster carers have to put in and yet they recognise they need them. Of course, this doesn’t mean they won’t fight them tooth and nail. One teenage girl I fostered said once that she liked knowing someone was at home worrying about her. That when I told her to keep in touch and be home by a certain time, it made her feel safe and cared for. She also secretly quite liked my crossness when these rules were flouted. It showed I cared.
Never a dull moment
The fact is teenagers, like any other child or adult, come in all shapes and sizes. It is unfair to lump them into one category, to lay prejudice on them, to treat them as homogenous. (I do see the irony that I am in many ways doing that in this blog!)
I suppose what I want to say is that teenagers really need foster carers. They need foster carers who can listen, who can be there, who can grit their teeth against the downs and hold out for the ups. Often, they need someone in their back pocket, someone they can rail against but who they know is there for them. Though they may never let you know that. Some will love cooking with you. Some might take walks with you. Others will enjoy shopping trips. Some you may struggle to tempt out of their rooms. Some will swear. Some will be non-communicative. Some will suffer with their mental health. All, by the very nature of the situation they find themselves in draw from a deep pool of resilience. In my book, that makes them worth taking a chance on.
There are so many teenagers in Essex, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk who need a warm and nurturing foster home. If you’d like to help, please get in touch with Eastern Fostering Services at Apply to Foster In Essex, Cambridge & Suffolk Eastern Fostering Services (eastern-fostering-services.com) via facebook or email them at email@example.com