There are many statistics available regarding foster care. The number of children in care, the ethnicity and gender of those children and the number of homes a looked after child lives in during their life in the care system.
These statistics can surprise or even shock us, but do they motivate us? There are more than 60, 000 young people living in care in the UK at any one time. The majority of these children are aged between 10 and 15 years. The number of fostering families has slowly gone down since 2011.
Teenagers are often the most difficult children to find a foster home for. Teenagers
often carry stigmas or stereotypes that they may or may not fit into; however, they are still in need of care, support, security and safety.
How can we reach past the statistics and see the child, a child, regardless of their age, regardless of their outward persona? How can we see not only what is needed for that child but also what is wanted?
For most of us it’s simply a case of remembering. We have all been teenagers, going through weird changes, learning how to be independent but still needing to feel loved protected and wanted. Most people have both positive and negative memories of their childhood, especially their teenage years. Most people remember being embarrassed for the majority of their teens, trying to navigate puberty, acne, exams, boyfriends, girlfriends, etc. etc.
Teenage years can be a difficult time, often feeling misunderstood and insecure. This can be magnified when a young person can no longer live with their family. They can experience rejection, fear and insecurity as their life changes around them. At such a critical time in their lives, they need clear guidance and support, people that care that can be consistent and present in their lives.
Teenagers need carers who are reliable, patient and trustworthy; they need to know they are worthwhile. Teenagers need foster carers who are willing to listen, be someone to talk to and help them to make sense of their worries.
Young people need help to organise their lives, to deal with their feelings and have good times with friends and where possible, stay in touch with their family. Foster carers are needed to help teenager whose parents are no longer able to care for them in order to learn good social and practical skills they’ll need in the future.
Teenagers need carers that can help prepare them to live independent lives, such as cooking and managing money. These years are full of the pressures of life, should I go to university? Should I do an apprenticeship? Should I find a job? Should I give it all up because I am overwhelmed? A foster carer does not have to have all the answers, a foster carer just has to remember how it felt when they were faced with those decisions and how a listening ear and a little support made such a difference.
(Supervising Social Worker)
Can you foster? Have you a spare room?