Fostering Teenagers - Foster Care Fortnight

Dave shares his experience of fostering teenagers.

There is an urgent need for foster families to look after children of all ages, but there is a particular need for carers for teenagers, who are the largest and fastest growing cohort of children in care. Teenagers need love, acceptance, patience and encouragement, as every other child does. They need a family who will commit to them and offer them the security they need, so they can go on to fulfil their potential. Dave has shared with us some reflections from his time fostering teenagers.

I remember the day my wife and I made the decision to explore fostering. For years I had been doing youth work in my local church, and my passion had been moving from large scale youth work, to smaller group work, to caring for that one child who needed it. My wife was and still is working as a therapist with families who fostered or adopted, and she had a real conviction that she wanted to be involved herself. I remember sitting in the car together on a sunny day, throwing ideas around. What started as an idea ended up growing into something that has allowed me the most challenging and most rewarding relationships of my life.

Our assessment felt quite invasive, but we knew all these questions were an important part of getting to know us, and making sure above all that we would be a safe and welcoming home for a child. Our social worker was interested in the fact that we were Christians; I think at the start she was waiting for us to begin preaching to her, to bring some manifesto. We really felt like we went on a journey with her, and by the time we got to panel she was really passionately arguing our case, and brought our faith in as a really positive thing. She was fantastic.

We received a phone call not long after we were approved, and were told there was an 11-year-old young lady who wasn’t doing well in the placement she was in. My wife and I spoke together, and then we connected with our social worker. We were able to take our time with introductions and make sure we were a right fit for her. She came over for tea and to hang out at our house a few times before we moved her in.

We were this girl’s fourth placement at the age of 11. You can only imagine how hard it must be for a young person to move to another home and listen to more adults tell them they care and they are here for them, when their past experiences tell them that these words probably aren’t true. We went through a bit of a ‘honeymoon period’ for the first few weeks until she felt safe enough to be real with us, and let her hurt and her disappointments and her anger out.

We journeyed through some of her teenage years with her, and I’ll be honest, those teenage years can be really tough. When she got to 15 and a half, she moved on from our home, but it was an honour to be her foster carers for that period; to counteract the voice that tells her we were just going to abandon her like everyone else, to encourage her and cheer her on, to help her feel safe and loved.

A few years after this young lady moved on from our care, I was in church and I felt these two little arms around me; she had been placed with a new family not far from us, and had had a bit of a hard year. She had come to church with us in the past, and people had loved her and made her feel safe there, so she asked her new foster carers if she could go to church. That family were more than happy to take her along with them to their local church that Sunday, but she told them, “No, I want to go to MY church.”

There’s a couple in our church who looked after the young people. Our foster daughter had really connected with them, she liked the way they were and she liked the way they made her feel, which was safe and celebrated. This couple took their support even further, and became respite carers so our girl could go to them for a night or a weekend. It meant when she or we needed a rest, she wasn’t going to another stranger but to extended family who she knew loved her and committed to her.

There were others in our community who would just have her round for tea, often she would connect with another child or young person at church so that family would open their home and invite her in. Others cooked us a meal and dropped it on the doorstep. The support and love from our church family ranged from simple loving acts, right through to people volunteering to be our ‘call at 3am guy’. Each act had an enormous impact, and we needed them all, particularly when things were tough. Ultimately, each of these people contributed to building a cathedral of safety and love around our girl. One that made a difference, one that she remembered. And none of them were on the payroll, they cared for her out of choice – this was a brand new narrative for her.

She kept coming to church after showing up that Sunday, and after about 18 months she decided to get baptised. The morning of her baptism, she stood pointed at various different people around the room and remembered.
‘This is because you didn’t give up on me.’
‘This is because you fed me.’ ‘
This is because you carried on regardless of my behaviour.’

Teenage years are tricky years for every young person, but they can be especially challenging for teenagers who have experienced care. We have the opportunity and the privilege to show them safety and love, whether that’s through fostering or as part of a supportive church family. Don’t be frightened to explore what your role could be in standing beside teenagers.


On Thursday 20 May, we are holding a special online information session focusing specifically on fostering teenagers. Click here to find out more and register.

If you think you could offer a vulnerable teenager a safe and loving home through fostering, or want to find out more about how you or your church can play your part in finding a home for every child who needs one, we would love to hear from you. Click here to get in touch.


Author:
Home for Good


Date published:
May 2021


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