Remember what it was like to be a teenager? The combustible mix of possibilities, opportunities, hormones and boundaries, homework and exams, people to see and places to go. Learning to stand on your own two feet and developing independence can be hard enough. If a teen has had distressing or troubling home experiences, it can just add more stress to an already heady mix.
Foster carers for teenagers need particular skills to carry out what can be a very varied and challenging job - sensitivity to a teen's situation, patience, tolerance and understanding. A foster carer needs to provide stability, safety and secure boundaries to keep a teen safe, while also encouraging them to spread their wings and experience different things.
It can be a hard balance to strike, but there are great rewards in drawing on your own abilities to help a young person develop confidence and self-esteem, resolve their problems and make plans for the future.
A significant number of children in Hampshire who need supportive foster families are teenagers. They come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some children enter foster care for short term care, sometimes because of a crisis in their relationship with their family and your role will be to provide the young person with safety and security, whilst supporting them in trying to resolve their difficulties with their family so that they can return home.
In some cases, where it is not possible to return a teenager home, long term foster care is needed, and a carer needs to prepare a youngster for independent living. This includes everything from the practical skills of budgeting, cooking and cleaning through to planning, education and finding work.
Young people can make enormous progress whilst in foster care and many young people appreciate the support they have received from their carers and stay in regular contact with them for many years after leaving foster care.
You don’t need to be super-human to care for teenagers, but you do need to have some understanding of bringing up teenagers, probably from your own experience or through having significant contact with teenagers, for example through work. More importantly, you need to be there for them, have good communication skills, provide consistent boundaries regarding behaviour, negotiate effectively when difficulties arise and have a sense of humour!