Myths about fostering older youth

Myths and facts about fostering older youth

Myth 1: Teens are too old to need a family. They will be out on their own soon enough.

Fact 1:

  • Most teens have not yet the learned the necessary skills for them to live successfully on their own. Older youth need both the support and benefits of being part of a family and the ability to develop independence and life skills for adulthood. At any given time, 25 percent of teens who are in care, are in congregate care. This includes group homes and residential care facilities, where staff oversee their daily care. In these facilities, teens have an increased risk for becoming a runaway, a young parent, having low or failing grades and other adverse adult outcomes. This is why it is so important for them to have a loving and caring home that will help them learn invaluable lifelong skills along with having supportive adult(s) in their lives.
  • Everyone knows that when a person turns 18 years old they continue to benefit from positive connections with caring adults in their lives. This is especially true for teens in care,. No one outgrows a family.

Myth 2: Foster Families only want younger children.

Fact 2:

  • There are many families who welcome teens into their homes. Some families are not looking for the responsibility of diapers, potty training or daycare. While teens can be challenging their own way, they can also be amazing, wonderful and even grateful at times. Teens are also old enough to talk about their wants and how they feel. Parenting a teen is an opportunity for you to teach them lifelong skills and you can be that stable, caring adult in their lives. There is also an opportunity for you to share many firsts with them. The first day of high school, their first sports game, getting their license, graduation from high school and even moving them to college. Preparing a young adult for independence and showing them how to become a responsible adult, your skills and life experience are worth sharing with a teen. Showing them stability, love and consistency can be invaluable to them. It can also be extremely rewarding to be a foster parent to a teen. It is important for us to prepare teens to lead productive and successful adult lives when they leave their foster homes.

Myth 3: Teens in Foster Care don’t want a family.

Fact 3:

  • Teens are like other children in foster care, not only do they want a family, they deserve a family. Everyone knows that once a person turns 18 years old, they continue to rely on caring adults in their lives for guideless, love and support. When a teen is in a foster home they feel connected and a sense of belonging. It can also provide a sense of stability for them and they can become successful with the right caring adult(s) in their lives.

Myth 4: Teens from foster care are too hard to parent and have a lot of significant problems.

Fact 4:

  • This is a common misconception. The majority of children in foster care, no matter their age, were placed in care because they experienced neglect or abuse. In almost all cases, it is the actions of their parents that led to them entering the foster care system. It may be the result of a death in the family, drug addiction, parent mental illness, or an unsafe home environment that leads to the teen entering foster care. It is not because of something they have done.
  • This holds true for teens in foster care. In general, teens can be challenging under the best of circumstances but teens in foster care have a more difficult time.
  • Yet, like all other teens, what they really need — even if they don’t want to admit it — are consistent adults in their lives to provide structure, guidance, safety and love. Studies show that when teens are in loving foster homes, they are more successful when they enter adulthood.

Unfortunately, a lack of teen foster homes means that many teens do not receive placement in a family home as they are placed in group homes. However, there are thousands of stories of teens thriving with a little structure and encouragement, and their life trajectory changing forever.

It is also important to remember that you are not in this alone. There is a team working with you and the teen. This includes a Family Case Manager, a Licensing Worker and the school district. At times, there could also be a therapist, medication manager and a crisis stabilizer.

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