Considerations when thinking about fostering teens

Fostering a teenager takes a special patience on your part. If you’ve never had children you’ll have to search back in your memory to your own teenage years. If you’ve had children and survived their teenage years then you’re as prepared as you can get. 

Teenagers in the foster care system are there for a myriad of reasons ranging from abuse, family addictions or alcoholism, lack of supervision and more. Along with the reasons these teens are in foster care are a lot of anger and resentments on the teens part. 

Expecting your experience to go smoothly is setting yourself up for failure. Some teens simply want to get it over with and will comply while others are openly hostile and resentful. Its’ important to remember not to take it personally. These teens are hurting and lashing out at the adults in their world in order to establish some sort of security system.

You’ll need to have the rules ready when you welcome teens into your home. Keep your household rules simple and reasonable. If you can’t stand the loud music teens like, only allow it during certain hours, then you can have “quiet time” in preparation for bed and school the next day. Be open and honest in your expectations without being overwhelming.

Teens in foster care are hurting and many don’t understand why the adult world is so difficult to navigate. They’ve felt judged and betrayed. It’s going to take time to build up their trust and help them to succeed in life. Having the patience to wait out that time can be trying at best.

Patience, openness and honesty will go far in developing this relationship. Establishing a connection will help the teen to feel safe. When they begin to feel safe then they begin to settle in.

Expect a “honeymoon” period. The first week to three weeks things may go as smooth as silk then suddenly everything is upside down. The honeymoon is over and the real challenge begins. You’ll have to be firm but loving and stand your ground to keep this teen safe.

For many teens in this situation a routine is very helpful. After school they may have sports, or drama or other activities. Dinner, homework and then off to bed. Forming a routine is very soothing in the long run and helps teens to know what to expect in life.

Give them ample opportunity to talk and share with you but never pry if you can help it. Knowing when to respect their privacy and when to intrude is a skill that will be of great value to you as a foster parent.

 Having other children at home should also be taken into consideration. How old are your children? Are they safe around the potential foster teen? Do they get along at all? Be wary of teens that have come from sexually abusive situations if you have younger children at home. You don’t want to set anyone up for abuse or open that window.

Be ready to expect anger and help the teen find healthy ways to deal with said anger. Teens are full of emotion and emotions can change within minutes. Knowing ahead of time ways to diffuse said anger and help the teen deal with it may well help all of you succeed in the long run.

Consider your own schedule when working with teens as foster children. Teens require a lot of energy and effort on the adults part. They may look self maintaining but in reality this is often the most difficult group to foster. Requiring parental supervision, taxi service, help with homework, trips to counselors (in many cases) and more.

Fostering a teen can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life, or it can be the worst mistake you ever made. Always consider your own family before agreeing to take in teens as foster children.