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Myths vs. facts about teenagers in care

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

Fact: Only 5-10% of 18-year-olds nationwide can live independently. Most individuals do not complete their emotional, psychological, or financial development until the ages of 23-25, and rely on family support in many ways for years after they turn 18. The added stress of residing in foster care and having less family support reduces even further teens’ abilities to become independent. Simply because an individual turns 18 years old does not mean that they are prepared for the adult world, or that they do not need a family. We all need family ties, forever.

Myth: Nobody wants to parent teens.

Fact: there are families who are very happy to add teens to their households. These may be people who, for various reasons, do not want the care involved in caring for a younger child, or who relate better to older children. They may be families who already have teens in the home and want to carry on caring for teens. Often, a family who is able to meet and interact with a waiting teen will develop an interest in adopting that teen.

Myth: Teens don’t want a family.

Fact: Most teens do want a family to call their own into adulthood. Teens may express fears about their identity, biological family ties, or established relationships when discussing foster care and adoption, but these are fears that can be allayed with guidance, involvement of the foster or adoptive family, and reassurance about what life will look like for the teen after they are with a family. Teens are able to navigate interpersonal relationships to a degree that they can accept and embrace a new family while maintaining ties to their biological family, if the situation requires it. Never underestimate the abilities of a teen!

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

Fact: Foster care, and the instability that a life of abuse and chaos create, can cause some difficulties for children, but not all teens in foster care have significant problems. Teens are also able to articulate their needs/wants better than a younger child, and can play a more active role in their therapeutic services, if needed, than a younger child. There are many services and supports available to teens that your case manager can help you locate. As youth age and mature, it is common for them to resolve old issues and as a young adult develop coping skills. The unwavering presence of a caring adult contributes greatly to a teens well being outcomes.

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