Foster an understanding of teenagers

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Foster an understanding of teenagers

In a recent blog we looked at the difficulties faced by teenagers in the care system and some of the issues that make placing adolescents so challenging. In a continuation of our series focusing on teenagers in the foster care system, the following examines considerations relating to fostering teenagers.

The general impression that teenagers are prone to be moody, difficult and unresponsive is pervasive. But there are valid reasons explaining why this is the case: research indicates that the human brain does not reach final maturity until the age of twenty five. A youngster who is eighteen is still biologically 7 years away from full maturity. This means it is important to reappraise what is meant by the term ‘grown up’, and the stages along the way to adulthood. There are clear implications for the policy of ‘Staying Put’, if the longer term definition of maturity is taken. Government must take this policy seriously and make sure it is consistently applied and funded properly. The risks of ending care arbitrarily at the age of 18 are evident: the worrying fact that has just emerged in response to a Freedom of Information request, is that young people who have been raised within the care system, are more likely to die in their early adulthood than other youngsters. The information came via a BBC report. The figures that were released revealed that ninety individuals who left the care system between the years 2012 and 2016, died in those years that they would have reached nineteen, twenty or twenty one. The depressing fact is that care leavers comprise only one percent of the population at these ages – but represent seven per cent of deaths. It cannot be acceptable to expect young people to simply sink or swim in the community at large if they cannot remain in care past the age of 18. Foster carers should be given the additional training and support required to look after youngsters over this age.

Foster an appreciation of what being a teenager means
Teenagers feel misunderstood: a universal truth. Adolescents do not often have a good grasp of the psychological and physical changes affecting them. This is especially true of young people who are not attending school regularly – missing important lessons that cover these topics (and these can often be the very teenagers that desperately need a foster home). The result: a young person can arrive at a foster placement with a very poor understanding of the developmental changes affecting them – so it is unlikely that they will be in control of them. This means there can be a complete lack of understanding all around. Adults, mostly, find it difficult to understand teenagers even though they have gone through the phase themselves. The modern technological age has compounded the problem further: young people live in a world of smart phones, apps and social media. This is a realm many adults have little understanding of, and it can create a real barrier, making both understanding and communication extremely difficult. The ubiquitous and rapidly changing nature of this technology can seem impenetrable to adults; worse, it can confer a feeling of expertise to teenagers that they can exploit. It feels empowering when they are in a position of knowledge and authority over an adult. This reversal of what should be the status quo, can make setting boundaries extremely difficult for a foster carer(s). A stand-off can all too easily ensue with technology being the barrier. Building a trusting relationship in such circumstances for a foster carer can be almost impossible. It is little wonder, then, that teenagers experience so many placement breakdowns as they and their foster carers struggle to grapple with such varied dynamics.

Foster communication strategies
So what is the answer? It has to be to develop effective communication strategies. These should be based on an understanding of what it is to be a teenager – physically and psychologically – and then what it is to be a teenager growing up in such a complex and rapidly changing society. Foster parents who are prepared to care for teenagers are to be highly prized, IFPs and local authorities need to communicate what it involves.

Acceptance and self awareness are important attributes to have if you foster. What ultimately
can make fostering so rewarding, is what it can enable us to learn about ourselves: the great psychologist Carl Jung expressed this with an appropriateness particularly apposite for this

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

And as most foster carers – indeed most other adults – will concede teenagers can be incredibly irritating. But we were all teenagers once!

And the good news at the end of this rainbow…a really great response and feedback from all the youngsters present – and the numbers are growing – at our most recent music training session.

Follow up our ‘Rainbow Rewards’ bonus scheme
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. 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.

If you are a foster carer (s): check our news section
Refer to our special foster news section on Rainbow Fostering’s web site. There are articles of interest if you are a foster parent (and even if you aren’t). Simply visit

Foster an adolescent and you will need support

Foster a teenager and you will need training

And do please feel free to contact us with your own views or fostering experiences. We would love to hear from you whatever types of fostering you might do.

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