The highest demand for foster carers is for people to care for older children and teenagers; sadly, this is the most difficult age for children to find foster homes. The reason for this is unknown; teenagers generally tend to get bad press by the nature of their age, and for older children in the care system, adolescence is a time where the clock ticks loudly. This clock is not just hormonal or feeling the need to sleep your life away, as many older children and teenagers do. This clock is ticking loudly, as many older children in care are now vulnerable because of their age.
For older children, the likelihood of finding a foster home with a foster carer is slim because of the ‘labels’ attached to older children that exist. However, for foster carers who do foster older children and teenagers, the reality is different. These foster carers understand older children and teenagers’ needs; thus, they know the rewards these children and young people gain when cared for properly is life-changing.
Changing the perceptions on fostering older children and teenagers.
Sadly, the perception of fostering teenagers and older children, for many potential foster carers, is described by some agencies as difficult. They say, ‘mostly, we have older children and teenagers who typically have behavioural issues; they can be challenging!’ I know this not true. Teenagers are complex and challenging by nature; they are learning and craving independence; subsequently, if we combine insecurity into the mix, it is potent. It is especially challenging for an older child or teenager in care and has very little understanding of living in a family environment with boundaries and guidance.
When people decide to foster, the first area they often look at is the age of children they want to support. The age of child/ children, based on your preference, is usually the age of children you have the most experience in caring for. More importantly, the age of children you choose needs to reflect the demand for foster carers to meet children’s ages in care.
It is widely known that to foster babies or young children; you are best to speak to your Local Authority. Most Local Authorities tend to place children with their foster carers first; therefore, you may wait a long time to have a child placed with you if you are not with them. The highest demand is for foster carers who want to support older children and teenagers or sibling groups; thus, you are more likely to have children placed with you if you have experience supporting these children.
We recruit foster carers to meet the demands of the children who need them.
For many people, the vision of fostering is to create for themselves an instant family. However, the truth is that children in care belong to someone else; they are children who do not, at that time, live with their birth family. Sadly, this is often not the child’s choice; there are many reasons children are in the care of their Local Authority; every child’s reason is different. Thus, children need foster carers to match their needs; equally important, the support for each child should reflect by the agency they represent. It is crucial for foster carers who can match the needs of older children and teenagers because they need people to take a chance on them, now more than ever.
Taking a chance on a child is huge.
Quite often in our lives, we have met somebody who took a chance on us. Usually, they saw something in us that we couldn’t see ourselves; thus, their presence made a vast difference in our lives. This difference often takes years of reflection to understand the enormity of what they did entirely; often, we fought against them. So, we treated them with suspicion; until finally, the penny dropped, and we realised that this person is a little bit different from everyone else. This person means what they say, and thankfully, they are not going to give up. Therefore, for a child with a difficult start in life, this person is the difference between them having a successful life or not; and it is a huge difference.
New legislation shows ‘care’ for children stops after 16 years of age.
Older children and teenagers need guidance about their future as they approach a point that will dictate the future path they follow. The Together Trust Charity is running a campaign to challenge new legislation for young people and teenagers in care.
‘The government has introduced new legislation in that from September 2021; they will ban councils from putting children aged 15 or younger in unregulated accommodation. This unregulated accommodation is often bedsits, flats and shared housing. However, Ministers say 16 and 17 year-olds don’t need this protection; they can manage in accommodation where they don’t receive any care. The onus is one the word care as these older children will receive national accommodation standards, but with no care. The government’s actions create a two-tier care system; children aged 15 and younger are guaranteed care, and those aged 16 and 17 are not.’https://secure.togethertrust.org.uk/uk-government-keep-caring?
Older children and teenagers need foster carers and safe homes like never before, with guidance from foster carers who care and are dedicated to giving them a secure future. These foster carers are exceptional people; they know that fostering teenagers and older children won’t be easy; therefore, they need consistent support. And, this is why Verve recruits foster carers for the Not for Profit sector. Every penny profit made is invested back to offer an outstanding support network dedicated to giving young people the opportunities in life they deserve.
Taking a chance on teenagers and never giving up!
‘Maybe, someone saw something in you and took a chance, and your path in life changed? Perhaps a teacher or a neighbour saw something in you that genuinely touched them enough to show they cared? And this act of kindness was delivered whether you wanted it or not because you didn’t know you needed it, but they did, and more importantly, they didn’t give up?’
Older children and teenagers are not what the label says; these children challenge because they feel pushed. If we stopped forcing and began to guide them, we will see a vast difference. Thus, this difference is often when someone takes the time to get to know a child or sees something in them; they know they can change for the better. Children don’t deserve a bad start in life, which subsequently dictates their future because someone labelled a young person and their age range as challenging. My first thoughts on hearing this description were, how qualified are you to make this statement? Have you ever worked with teenagers, and on what statistics have you made this assumption?
Thus, we need to put pay to these myths; they are not valid. We can, and do, make a difference in young people’s lives daily by being ourselves. The main difference is that we take on this difference as foster carers for older children and teenagers because we are there when they need us most.
My young ladies who had an answer for everything …
My career has involved working with older children for many years. I have mentored, counselled and provided advocacy for children. However, my favourite role was as a Tutor, teaching Childcare studies to a group of young ladies in an alternative education centre in Bolton. I knew the challenge I was taking on as these young ladies, all teenagers who were at risk of becoming NEET, and hated the idea of Childcare. Therefore, my challenge was educating young ladies who had an answer for everything, even though they didn’t know the questions yet?
However, my class got them out of mainstream school for a day, they didn’t have to wear a uniform, and they could smoke. Their teachers breathed a collective sigh of relief when the minibus picked them up and brought them to me once a week. These ladies regularly drove me round the bend, they challenged me, and I challenged them, and I relentlessly batted away their criticisms. I threw negativity away, in the same way, I threw their cigarettes away, and I instilled in them a self-belief that if they put their mind to it, they could achieve it, and we would work it out together. Thus, they began to wonder what they had let themselves in for, especially as they knew all the answers!
Once you peel away the layers of mistrust, trust is gained.
However, we loved our challenges; I learned more from my girls than I have ever known before. These ladies taught me resilience, and once we began to peel the layers collectively, we earned our trust together; consequently, we flourished together. The outcomes for my ladies? We now have one young lady from three generations of a family where the Mum’s didn’t work; she is now a Nursery manager. She’s 23 and has her own home with a mortgage; a further two ladies went on to college and studied childcare and the final young woman? This young woman went to University; she is studying to become the one thing she hated as a child in care; she wants to be a Social worker.
And, the difference these young ladies brought to me?
And the difference for me? I met these amazing ladies who gave me the chance to be a part of their lives for a year; it gave me the confidence I needed to say don’t believe the myths. My motto is to see the opportunity in someone, give them a chance and stick with them. In truth, if we believe in them, then ultimately, we will all achieve actualisation.
Can you be the difference a young person needs?
Many people inquire into foster care and have an abundance of skills in caring for children and young people; they are wonderful. However, young people need foster carers to foster teenagers who have the determination and tenacity to deliver actual outcomes and ensure vulnerable children have continual care. Our Government says that young people will not continue to have care after a certain age, this is wrong.
However, campaigns take time to gain momentum, and decisions take time to overturn; sadly, the time to find a foster home is now for many young people. The highest age range and demand for children needing safe foster homes are for older children and teenagers; Can you give older children and teenagers a chance in life they need?
Please, get in touch on the form below. I will contact you back; there’s no cost and commitment, just advice and guidance on the fostering process. Together, we can give young people the future they deserve.