In most states, the majority of youth waiting for foster homes are teenagers. Fostering teens is a great fit for people who are looking to walk alongside youth as they become more self-sufficient, and you get the opportunity to connect them to permanent connections as they become adults. Just like any other age group, teens in foster care want a secure, loving family. There are several benefits of becoming a foster parent that are unique to this age group.
8 Reasons to Foster Teens
Here are eight reasons why you should consider fostering teens:
8. The Need for Foster Homes to Take Teens Is Strong
In the U.S, there are over 391,000 youth in foster care and 29% of those children are over the age of 11. The need for foster families in general is high; however, many families get licensed to do foster care with the intent of bringing young children into their home. This leaves a huge need for families that accept teenagers. By opening your home to teens, you are immediately filling a very important part in the foster care system.
7. Teens Are More Self-Sufficient
In most cases, teenagers can feed themselves, get themselves up and ready for school, and take care of their own personal hygiene. You do not need to walk with them everywhere they go and keep eyes-on supervision. Many can stay home alone for periods of time, which fosters independence. In fact, it is encouraged to allow the teens in your home appropriate levels of freedom for them to learn to make the right choices. Because of this, you have a little more freedom as a foster parent and can nurture larger life skills as they are preparing for high school or college, jobs, relationships, and an independent future.
6. Teens Are Easier to Rationalize With and They Understand Consequences
While fostering teens can still be tough, much of that is because being a teenager is tough. When trauma and inconsistency is added to the mix, teenagers in foster care have a bigger challenge ahead of them than many of their peers. Most of the time, you can rationalize with teens and explain to them why a decision was made. They may not agree but often can at least understand. Teenagers can grasp the consequences and how negative choices can lead to such consequences. The biggest need teens have in this area is consistency - consistent expectations and consistent consequences.
5. Teens Can Engage in Richer Conversations With You
Talking to younger kids is fun but talking with teens can result in greater conversations. Once a level of trust is built, many teens in care want to talk with a trusted adult about issues, both historic and present. You would have the opportunity to tell stories of your past, too, both positive and negative experiences that can help them learn along the way. These interactions foster connections between you and the youth in your home.
4. You Get to Watch Them Make Strides Towards Independence
As a foster parent who accepts teenagers, you get the opportunity to help them with independent living skills. This may be teaching them daily household routines, money management, and job obtainment. You also get to watch them use those skills and support them as they learn. Think back to your childhood and the moments you had with your caregivers as they taught you new skills you are grateful for today. Wouldn’t it be rewarding to pass those skills to a teenager in need?
3. You Are Part of a Team Where the Youth Plays an Active Role in the Planning
Often, younger children in care do not participate in their team meetings due to their age and ability to understand what is said. Teenagers are to be encouraged to participate in these meetings. In fact, the ideal practice is that the teen is leading those meetings and is in the driver’s seat of planning for their future. Teens have the ability to understand and advocate for what they want. As a foster parent of a teen, you have the chance to assist and empower them to use their voice regarding their lives.
2. You Can Link Them to Permanent Connections and Be Part of Their Lives as Adults
A huge need for youth in foster care is permanent connections. These are people they can reach out to if needed, people they can put as job references, and people they can share their good news with. As a foster parent of a teenager, you get the chance to connect them with other trusted adults that can act as positive long-term role models. Sometimes all teens need is one person who they know will be there when they need them. As a treatment foster care worker, hearing stories from foster parents who have stayed in touch with previous foster youth is heartwarming to say the least. A youth who they supported as they struggled through keeping a job now owns their own business, or a youth with attachment issues now has a healthy family of their own.
1. You May Get to Be Their Final Stop in Foster Care
Not many youth in care have had only one foster care placement. As a foster parent of teenagers, you are likely not their first placement in foster care, but you could be their last offering a stable, supportive place for them to launch into adulthood.
If you are interested in opening your heart and home to a teen, learn more about becoming a foster parent here.
This blog post was written by Tara Helfrich, Quality & Outcomes Coordinator at Nexus-PATH.
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 50 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org.