Fostering Teens

Children in foster care have a hard time trusting others, and this is especially true for teens. By the time the child reaches the teen years, these children have been shuffled from home to home and school to school. Why should they trust you? How are you and your home different from any of the other places they’ve been?

It’s hard enough to parent a teenager, but it’s even tougher when the teen hasn’t had much of a start in life. You now have to undo at least 13 years worth of hurt, anger, and disappointment. You have to teach him or her how to act appropriately, how to trust, and how to be responsible.

Teen foster kids are self-absorbed — from their changing bodies to their ever-changing homes. They feel sorry for themselves, and they build walls around their hearts to keep out fear and pain. They have been let down so many times that they can’t see any reason to believe you. (“You’ll just hurt me like everyone else.”)

Some teens will have  “suppressed memory flashbacks.” These cause even more anxiety and can send them further into depression. Reaching a teenager in foster care is a feat in itself. So, what can you do? Well, when you raise a child from a young age, you and that child have a foundation for your relationship. You build on it for years, and by the time that child reaches her teen years, he or she knows who’s boss, and who to turn to for help – YOU.

With the foster teen, you have no foundation. You’ll have to build one. Here are some suggestions.