Teenagers are finding their way in the world and establishing their place in it. They are developing their identity, their beliefs and opinions. They need a secure base to help them navigate through this period from childhood to adulthood.
As with all children in care, teenagers may have experienced neglect, abuse or trauma and will have built a protective shell around themselves to prevent further hurt. As their foster carer, you have a unique opportunity to help them build trust, explore their potential and have a positive influence over their future and the futures of their children, grandchildren and so on. Working with teenagers can be rewarding, interesting and rarely dull.
- A sense of humour is vital in all aspects of fostering. So many potentially difficult situations can be diffused with a smile and some fun.
- Patience – sometimes a teenager will talk all night to you as soon as you meet them, other times they may take some time before they can open up to you. But if you give them time they will begin to trust that you are there for them, no matter what, and will begin to come out of their shell.
- Flexibility – if it’s not working try something new! All children and young people are unique what works for one might not work for another. You need to be open minded and willing to try different strategies. But don’t worry you are never on your own – we will be there with training and support every step of the way.
- A mature outlook – you will needs to be confident in how you handle challenging situations, remain calm at all times and not take things to personally.
Teenagers in care are often difficult to place but their needs are no different to younger children. They may be taller than you but often they can be much younger emotionally and so they can still need a lot of nurturing and care. They may have missed out on a lot during their lives, love, stability, consistent boundaries, and education. But in your care they could blossom into the well-rounded young people they were born to be.
Read about how foster carer Pauline enjoys looking after teenagers:
Southampton City Council foster carer Pauline lives in Totton, and has been fostering both short term and long term placements since 2013. Over this time, she has fostered ten children. She currently has a seven-year-old boy and a 17-year-old asylum seeking young man living with her.
Pauline’s particular specialism, and passion, is fostering teenagers. “I really feel I can connect with them”, says Pauline, “I like to think I have made a real difference to their life journey”.
Fostering children and teenagers, has of course, not come without its challenges. “I have fostered a very angry and distressed seven year old, who I looked after for 18 months; a teenager who self-harmed and another teenager who regularly abused substances”, says Pauline. However, she feels she has been fully backed by Southampton City Council in looking after the children. Pauline says, “I have always felt the focus has been on the child and their emotional stability and development, which is quite rightly so. I have undertaken a variety of hugely beneficial training courses which have enabled me to help and support the children.”
Pauline offers advice for potential foster carers: “If you come into fostering wanting to make a difference, but thinking ''it will be the same as bringing up my own children, and the children will love and enjoy the caring environment I can create for them'' you may become disillusioned and feel unappreciated, but with training, professional development and by learning about trauma; the impact of trauma on childhood development, and how children’s brain patterns may not have developed due to neglect, then, and only then, can you begin to understand how scary the ‘caring environment’ you are creating for these children really is, and that they are not rejecting us.”
She continues, “The child is too scared to readily accept the safe environment, as a safe environment is scarier than the traumatised environment they have just been removed from. The child has learnt negativity, and the traumatising environment was what the child has been familiar with, so by removing the child from this can make them feel unsafe, unsure, angry and very scared. I cannot emphasis enough how imperative I think training is. You will be able to empathise, understand, and ‘walk the walk’ with the child which will make you a confident foster carer.”
For information on the financial support that's available for foster carers, please refer to the Fostering Finance document. If you were to foster a 16 year old who needs to be placed on their own, you could receive a package of up to £590 a week.
How do I apply?
To receive more information, please complete our Fostering Enquiry Form
Please mention you have a specific interest in fostering teenagers in the ‘What attracts you to fostering?’ section. Alternatively, email us at email@example.com or telephone 0800 5 191818.
You will need to complete the usual foster carer application process which takes a maximum of eight months.