Another in our series of blogs concentrating on the issue of fostering teenagers. Finding suitable homes for this group is presenting real challenges – especially at a time of a national shortage of foster families in the UK. There is now a pressing demand to find new foster homes for young people and teenagers. Around half of all children in the care system across the UK are over the age of 10. It is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit new foster carers, and the problem is being exacerbated by experienced foster carers retiring. The very cadre of people that are most needed as the watch word here is Experience with a capital ‘E’. Finding people willing to provide a home for an adolescent who might appear feckless, troubled and resentful, is always going to be a big ask. As there is such a general shortage of carers, it is understandable that newly approved foster carers
will want naturally to foster younger children. The usual request from people apart from wanting to foster babies, is to foster children under the age of 10. And this means that they are disinclined to consider half of the youngsters that are at any one time looking for a placement. It has of course to be said that children under the age of 10 can, depending on their experiences, present foster carers with a lot of age related issues.
Carers can, with training and support break the cycle
Notwithstanding the placement pressures, recently approved carers have to be protected: training and support has to be first rate to equip new carers with confidence and resilience. Only then should they be asked to consider dealing with a much older child. A few bad experiences, and a foster carer could well be lost to the cause – negating all the time and resources deployed to recruit them in the first place. The truth is that there is such pressure in the system that foster carers have reported being put under pressure to take older children. There is a cycle that needs to be broken. And this should be made a priority as ending it will, as a consequence, create a better position; one at least shielding foster carers long enough to persuade them fostering is worthwhile so they can acquire valuable experience. And the cycle: simply, new foster carers who have not had placements have preferences for younger children who are in more demand; many teenagers desperately needing placements aren’t offered them. What has to happen is to encourage existing foster carers to consider taking teenagers. This will mean a considerable amount by way of training and support. There is also another crucial element to be considered. At this moment in time, a disturbing number of foster carers are reporting that they feel undervalued and unappreciated. And it is true that a growing number say they have to ‘dip into their own pockets’ as the allowances are not covering the cost of fostering a child. This is a lamentable state of affairs: it is unrealistic to expect carers to face the emotional challenges of looking after teenagers, many of whom will have complex needs, when the government sends such wrong signals. What is needed are foster carers who feel the sense of ‘professionalism’ that only comes when they feel respected and valued by society. They do vital work, this should be recognised and they should be rewarded. To not do so will only mean we as a society will face far greater social costs in the medium and long term.
Carers need to be made aware teenagers are in real need
In the short term a process of education is called for: there are some deeply entrenched attitudes about teenagers that need challenging. There is also a certain amount of ‘blindness’ resulting in a lack of awareness of the scale of the problem. This is created by an unintended media bias. There tends to be a lot more media attention given to children under the age of 12 and the need to find them foster homes. Where teenagers attract media attention it tends to be a ‘bad press’ focusing upon poor behaviour often revolving around drugs and crime. And it doesn’t take much negative media coverage to create a widespread disincentive to fostering a teenager. There is also the more straightforward mis-perception at work which is that if teenagers are in care, this is itself a punishment for some presumed wrongdoing – reinforcing the stereotypical image.
Issues that affect teenagers
There are misconceptions about teenagers, but it has to be said there are issues that do relate to adolescents and for which foster carers do need training and support. This is a positive because it means that more thought and preparation will need to be made in the matching process prior to deciding on a particular placement. In November 2014, a report was published by the National Audit Office, which focused on the mounting difficulties of finding secure foster placements for girls who might be at risk from CSE (child sexual exploitation). A significant number of teenagers will – apart from experiencing general neglect – have suffered serious forms of abuse: others may have witnessed violence and got caught up in gang culture and gone on to be affected by alcohol or drugs; then there will be those for whom little support or interest has been shown regarding their education – so they will have fallen far behind their contemporaries. And that’s if they have even benefited from regular school attendance. To handle such challenging placements, foster carers will need training around such issues, and plenty of ongoing to support to have any hope of there being a successful outcome.
Foster and be aware of ‘Staying Put’
The ‘Staying Put’ programme now means that young people can be supported in foster care up to the age of 21. This has been as a result of the hard work and pressure from various fostering charities which have campaigned for a Staying Put policy for years, and similar policies have now been put in place throughout the UK. The main policy recognises that most 18-year-olds -especially if they come from a troubled background, are not mature enough for fully independent living. This means that foster carers need to be mindful of this important change as they will have to consider they be asked to care for the young person they have beyond the age of 18.
And the good news at the end of this rainbow…more encouraging feedback from all the youngsters who attended our last music training session.
Follow up our ‘Rainbow Rewards’ bonus scheme & any questions you might have
Rainbow will pay you a bonus of £500 if you are a foster carer who can refer someone wanting to be a foster carer. The money will be paid after your referral has been approved, and their first placement made. Please note: if you are already an approved foster carer, and already look after a child (children) on a long-term basis, it is easy to transfer to Rainbow Fostering. You will also be eligible for a bonus from us. It is a simple and straightforward process – Rainbow provides all the necessary support and guidance. We are a welcoming community of foster carers and care professionals. We can help you with a whole range of questions regarding foster carer pay, how long does it take to become a foster carer down to what is fostering? We can also advise on how much do private fostering agencies pay? This is a common question – along with queries about national fostering agency allowances. So if you are looking for guidance – simply give our team a call.
Please call and discover the benefits of joining our welcoming community of foster carers. How much do private fostering agencies pay? This is a common question along with queries about national fostering agency allowances; and if you are also wondering how long does it take to become a foster carer – please call for guidance.
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