As a therapeutic foster care agency, we work with counties all over to find homes for children that county foster homes aren’t able to care for. Unfortunately, teenagers often fall into this group, simply because of their age, and are frequently put into group homes because there are no foster homes available to them. But there are many perks to fostering an older child that people don’t realize!
- Teens understand their situation
When children first come into foster care, or transition homes, it can be a difficult transition. For younger children, who don’t understand what is going on, this transition can be even more challenging. Frequently, though, older children understand what has been happening in their previous home and be able to grasp why they are in your home now. You can explain their situation to them, and they have a better understanding of what’s going on. In fact, some teenagers even share input on what kind of foster home they think they’d be a good fit in, and can appreciate the safety of your home, more than a younger child can.
- Older children can communicate their feelings & needs more effectively than younger children
Really young children have a tough time communicating at all, and this is even more so the case when they are emotionally dysregulated and confused. When they cry, they may not even understand why, and therapeutic interventions can be tough for children before they’re verbal or able to share their thoughts. Teenagers, though, are able to express themselves more clearly, both in what they are feeling and in what may be upsetting them, and when necessary, can work with therapists on better sharing their thoughts and feelings. This makes it easier as a parent to understand how to intervene.
- Teens can be somewhat self-sufficient and can work towards goals
Teens are working their way towards a goal of self-sufficiency. Many teens may already have a basic understanding of money, chores, hygiene, and the importance of setting themselves up for the future. With younger children, you spend a lot more time teaching the basics, but with teens, you can help them hone these skills for building their future!
- You can share hobbies and interests
While a foster child, and a teenager, may not always want to hang out with you, you are much more likely to have something in common with a teenager. Whether that’s a video game, music, movies, sports, a hobby, or something else, there is likely to be something you can talk about and relate to, whereas younger children you likely don’t engage in many of their activities in the same way.
- You can mentor and provide a home to someone who would otherwise have no one
When children age out of foster care, they’re left with no safety net. Between 30 and 45% of children who age out of foster care report being homeless at least once by the time they turn 26.
Imagine being able to provide a teenager with somewhere to call home while they start their first job, get their driver’s license graduate high school, move on to higher education, and more. These experiences are not possible for many teens who don’t have a foster home to move into, and can make all the difference in their future.
Want to hear someone’s experience fostering teens? https://fosteringperspectives.org/fpv13n2/minds.htm
More reasons to foster a teen: https://childcrisisaz.org/top-5-reasons-why-you-should-foster-a-teen/
A teen’s perspective on wanting a foster home: https://www.today.com/parents/teen-foster-children-search-place-call-home-t129675
Myths about adopting a teen in foster care: https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/politics/360932-myths-about-adopting-teens-in-foster-care