Fostering Teens

Fostering teens comes with an initial fear response from most people who can view them as ‘problem children’, disrespectful, oppositional, defiant, resistant to trust and kids who are generally difficult to parent.

The truth is that these kids had ‘problem parents’ and through no fault of their own, found themselves in care. They are trying to make sense out of the fact that their entire world has been pulled out from under their feet. They will need time to sort through it all.

A Place To Call Home

The truth is that foster parenting, in general, is not easy. It can be exhausting both physically and emotionally, no matter what age the child is.

The truth is that the majority of teens or tweens in care are kids who just want to be in a loving family that provides them structure and stability.

People who have had the experience of fostering teens, more often than not, have amazing experiences. People describe fostering teens as; “the best thing they could have done”. “These teens are wise beyond their years”. “They are compassionate and loving”. “Teens are kids you can have amazing transforming conversations with”. “You can introduce them to a loving home, possibly share in the first birthday they have ever had, introduce them to a holiday they have never celebrated. You may be the only family they have to be there for them as they graduate from high school, get married, have their first child”.

10 Reasons to foster teens, as written by those who do it:

  1. Teens are more self-sufficient and independent – Be The Village
  2. You can have an immediate impact on them as they go through teen to adult milestones – Be The Village
  3. It can be easier to parent teens, you can be more yourself, due to their age and ability to understand and grasp concepts and ideas. Younger kids can be physically exhausting, more so than teens. – Be the Village
  4. There are less restrictions when fostering teens. – Be the Village
  5. Imagine being a teenager. Now imagine your parents have failed you. The main people you are supposed to be able to trust in life have proven untrustworthy and the only way you can keep from being hurt again is to stop trusting. Give them a chance to trust someone before they get to a point of no return. – “We have kids” website
  6. If they are severed, you can make sure they are not alone: Graduation, college, their wedding, the birth of their first child, tough and heartbreaking times in their lives, they will have you and you could be their last chance to have someone in their corner. - “We have kids” website
  7. It's such a cruel comparison, but I once heard teen foster children compared to senior dogs in the shelter. Those are the ones most don't want, but if you take them in and keep them till their end they will forever be grateful. While the comparison is a bit cruel, it's true. Being a last stop can be the saving grace. You can be the memorable last stop to make all the other stops worth it. - “We have kids” website
  8. You may be their only chance to know what a kind and loving family and home is like. “We have kids” website
  9. You will be there for them to help them navigate their teen years, get them into sports, choir, acting, cheerleading, art – help them to find and develop talents and skills they may never have known they had. See them go on their first date, teach them to drive a car, watch them get their first job.
  10. Teens will challenge you, but you will feel yourself grow and become more confident and resilient as you see their walls come down and the trust develops.

Tips on how to be a GREAT foster parent to teens:

  • Give them time and space, LISTEN more than you talk.

  • Treat them like you would your own child

  • Encourage them to get involved in social events and sports / activities at school

  • Show them you are committed / don’t give up!
  • Stability is key with teens, they want to know they have a home, bed and family to come home to and then they can concentrate on other things like school and their future.
  • Give them a voice, empathize and care for their needs.
  • Don’t be afraid, be open. See past their ‘front’ to who they really are and tell them what you see, often.
  • Understand the walls they have up are there for a reason, built over years, and they need a good reason to allow you to pass.

Teens may fight attaching to foster families after what they have been through, but what they are really looking for is someone who will fight for them.

Some teens may try to push you away, they may dismiss your genuine attempts to love and connect with them, but is that what they really want? Maybe what they want and need you to do is to prove yourself to them, prove that you will stand no matter how hard they push, prove that you won’t walk away, like everyone they have known and loved has. Their walls have protected them and until you prove that you are not walking away and that you are genuine and committed they may keep that wall up.

Understand that teens coming into care, or even if they have bounced around, are frightened and confused and don’t know what they are walking into when they enter your home. There may be truth in the saying; “they are more scared of you than you are of them”.

Submitted by

Tracey Woods

APTCH Agency Trainer