The highest demand for foster carers is for people to care for older children and teenagers; sadly, this is the most challenging age for children to find foster homes. 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 the feeling of 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 they are getting older, and subsequently, they are no longer supported by Social Services.
So, for these older children, the likelihood of finding a foster home with a foster carer is slim due to the ‘labels’ attached to older children that, in fact, don’t really exist.
Thankfully, foster carers who foster older children and teenagers know the reality is different. These foster carers understand older children and teenagers’ needs; consequently, they see the difference they make for children and young people’s lives, which is life-changing.
Changing the perceptions on fostering older children and teenagers.
Sadly, some agencies’ perception of fostering teenagers and older children is described as complex for many potential foster carers. They say, ‘mostly, we have older children and teenagers who typically have behavioural issues; they can be challenging!’
It is especially challenging for an older child or teenager in care who has no experience living in a family environment with boundaries and guidance. These young people need specialist care and support from people who recognise the importance of getting it right, and consequently, this is where Not for Profit Charities and their support networks excel.
We recruit foster carers to meet the demands of the children who need them.
For many people, the vision of fostering is to create an instant family. However, the reality 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, and each child’s reason is different.
Therefore, children need foster carers that are suitable to match their needs; and equally as important is that support reflects from the agency or Charity that foster carers represent. We need to ensure those foster carers can match the needs of older children and teenagers because, simply, they need people to take a chance on them, now, more than ever before.
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; however, they made a vast difference in our lives. The difference often takes years of reflection to understand the enormity of what they did for us finally, and; often, we fought against them.
So, we treated them with suspicion; until finally, the penny dropped, and we saw that this person is a little bit different from everyone else. This person actually means what they say, and thankfully, they are not going to give up.
So, for a young person who had a difficult start in life, this person is the difference between them having a successful life or not; and it is a huge difference.
And, that difference is the difference of good foster carers who understand the needs of children and young people, and who care enough to make this difference.
New legislation shows ‘care’ for children stops after 16 years of age.
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 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?
Subsequently, our 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 isn’t easy; consequently, they need consistent support.
And, this is why Verve recruits foster carers for the Not for Profit Charities; because every penny profit made is invested back to offer an outstanding support network dedicated to supporting their foster carers.
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?
Subsequently, this act of kindness was given whether you wanted it or not. Sometimes you didn’t know you needed it; however, 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. Maybe, if we stopped forcing children and started to guide them, then we could see a vast difference?
Thus, this difference is when someone takes time to get to know a child or sees something in them, they know they can change for the better.
No child deserves a bad start in life that subsequently dictates their future due to someone labelling a young person and their age range as ‘challenging.’
When I heard this description being used, my first thoughts were to ask, ‘how qualified are you to make this statement? Have you ever worked with teenagers, and on what statistics have you made this assumption?’
Therefore, I 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.
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 hadn’t heard the questions yet?
However, for these young ladies, my class got them out of mainstream school for a day; they didn’t have to wear a uniform, and they could smoke. Consequently, 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.
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; and we flourished together.
The outcomes for my ladies? We now have one young lady from three generations of families 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 looking 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 ethos 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.
For these young people, the clock is ticking, and I think we need to get a grip on our teenagers in care and bring them into our homes to ensure they have a safe future. Can you foster?