Foster care helps children everywhere thrive. However, we often only think of younger children and overlook teens—they require love and care, too!
The Rewards of Fostering Teenagers: Our Guide
Uncover the joys and challenges of fostering teenagers, and learn how you can make a lasting impact on a teen's life.
Often, when we think of foster care, we picture younger children in care, from toddlers to early pre-teens.
The reality is that there are children in foster care of all ages — including older teenagers.
To help you figure out how to best give care to teens in foster care, we’ll provide you with some tips on understanding teens and how to solve challenges.
But first, let’s talk about why fostering teens is important.
Teens Need Foster Care, Too
As of 2021, 36% of children in foster care are 11 years old or older — that’s a major portion of the total number of children in care!
Just like younger children in care, teens may also be living with certain trauma that comes from neglect or any other challenges they’ve faced early in their lives.
They need love and nurturing, too.
The truth is that teens are a vulnerable age group. With so many things going on at once in their lives with hormonal and other changes, giving them the love and care they need is a must.
Understanding the Teenage Mind
So, with all of these things happening in the lives of teens, what can you do to be the best foster parent possible?
Here are a few important ways to support a teen in care.
One of the biggest steps in foster care is building trust. However, it may take some time!
The first step toward building trust is to be open and honest — taking the time to talk to your teen and really listening to what they have to say. Teens have often gone through past events that make it hard for them to trust, so it's best to create a safe space where they can express their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment.
Another big part of trust is keeping your promises — if you say you'll do something, follow through with it! Keeping promises shows a teen in care that you can be relied on and helps build trust.
Lastly, respect their privacy. Giving them the freedom to make choices in their daily lives can show them that you respect their need for independence.
Trust is needed in any relationship, and when foster teens trust their parents, they are more likely to open up and feel secure.
Creating a Welcoming Space
Creating a welcoming space in your home is a must — it's a place where foster teens can feel safe, cared for, and valued.
Allowing teens in care to create their own living space is a great way to make them feel at home. For example, decorating their room gives them a sense of ownership and belonging. It's like giving them a canvas to express themselves and make their space truly their own.
It also helps to include them in family decisions — asking for their opinions and inviting them to join family activities helps them feel included.
Be sure to have the right balance, too. While having some rules in place is necessary for everyone's well-being, it's equally important not to make them overly strict. This balance ensures that teens feel at ease in your home.
Supporting Their Interests and Growth
What are your teen's interests? Music? Sports? Art?
No matter the answer, help them pursue these interests!
Encouraging them to explore their passions is vital for their growth. When you provide chances for them to pursue their interests, it boosts their self-esteem and confidence.
You should also help and support them with their education — helping with their schoolwork, giving them access to resources, and talking about their goals can help them succeed. Talk to them about their dreams and help them set goals for their future!
Consistency and Patience
Teens need consistency to succeed — and you can help provide it.
Consistency means sticking to your rules and routines as much as possible. This helps foster teens know what to expect, giving them a sense of stability and security.
You’ll want to be patient as well — especially when teens face challenges. Teenage years are filled with emotions, and they may make mistakes along the way. Being patient during these times is crucial.
Challenges With Fostering Teens (And How to Overcome Them)
As is the case with fostering younger children, there are some specific challenges that come with fostering teens — though it’s still a rewarding experience!
Here are a few of those challenges.
Preparing for Adulthood
As foster teens grow up, they will eventually need to get ready to become an adult — they’re going to need your help!
Foster parents can provide teens help learning important life skills, including
- Managing responsibilities
- Planning for their future
- And more
Equipping them with the skills and knowledge they need to become adults is part of your job as a foster parent.
Fostering teens may involve dealing with situations where teens act out and test boundaries.
In these cases, you’ll want to establish clear rules and consequences. By setting expectations and explaining the results of their actions, you give them structure and guidance.
Open communication is equally important. Talking to them about making good choices and offering guidance during difficult times can help them get through their emotions and behaviors.
Coping With Trauma
Unfortunately, many teens in care have gone through trauma in their lives. They may still carry sadness and painful memories from past events.
When faced with this challenge, creating a safe space for them to express their feelings can help. If it’s needed, seeking professional help can provide them with the tools to process their emotions and heal. During this time, being patient is crucial — healing takes time, and your support can have a positive impact on their recovery.
Finding Their Identity
Identity and belonging can be a big challenge for teens in general — for foster teens, it’s an even bigger issue. They may struggle with understanding who they are and where they come from.
Foster parents can help them explore their identity. Encouraging connections with their roots, if possible, and facilitating discussions about their heritage can foster a sense of belonging and self-discovery.
Learn More About Foster Parenting in Our Upcoming Webinar
Looking for more information on foster parenting?
If so, our upcoming webinar can help point you in the right direction.
By attending a Foster Parent Information Session Webinar and learning more about the fostering process, you can take the first step toward becoming a foster parent and providing a safe, loving, and supportive home for a child in need.
Sign up for our webinar today!