Children

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What foster parents want you to know

Did you always want to foster older youth?

“No. We like many were scared fostering older kids but after being licensed for a while our licensing worker opened our license to “anything and everything” and when we got the call for a teenager and heard about it we felt like we could help him as he prepared for this next stage in life.” –Charonne G.

“Yes.  School-age children seemed a better fit for our family.  We like to do things such as camping and other activities that older kids would enjoy.” –Melissa P.

“I originally wanted to foster 3-4 y/o children, however I changed my mind after providing respite for older youth and realizing this was my best fit.” –Kristen J.

“We were open with our age range.  I read a bio about our 13 y/o foster child and felt a connection.  We took placement of her shortly after.”

“We initially wanted to foster sibling groups.  We knew this meant we may end up fostering an older youth.” –Marijo & Jacob Z.

 

What are some highlights that you have experienced from providing care for an older youth?

“Having real conversations with them.  We had just as many “firsts” with our older kids; there were so many things they hadn’t done like going to the Zoo or Trick-or-Treating.” –Marijo & Jacob Z.

“They want to be a part of the family.  It’s more than giving them a bed or food.  Fostering is more than that.” –Laura E.

“Watching them have first-time experiences like going camping or fishing.  It makes you do stuff you haven’t done for a while like going to the Museum.” –Melissa P.

“They’re able to voice their opinions.  They’ll let you know what they need.” –Jessica K.
 
“You can teach them more life skills such as how to apply for a job, school, etc.” –Catherine L.
 
“They have a sense of wanting to help and contribute.” –Carrie S.
 
“Throwing him his first birthday party.” –Charonne G.
 

What are some of your favorite memories you've shared with your older youth?

 “We went on a boat, he was very excited.  He had never been fishing before.” –Kristen J.

“They have a sense of humor.  You have to earn their trust; the older kids know when they’re in a good home.” –Carrie S.

“We swap knowledge.  She teaches me how to do my hair, makeup, and nails, and I teach her life skills like how to apply for a job.” –Catherine L.

“After providing respite for a 12 y/o boy, he gave me a big hug and said, ‘Thank you for trusting me.’” –Jessica K.

“We provided him with stability.  I love seeing him be a kid.” –Laura E.

 

What are some of the challenges you have experienced with caring for an older youth?

“The older they get, you feel like you are another person who failed them [if the placement does not work out]. It’s difficult to re-teach them appropriate rules and boundaries.” –Carrie S.

“Making sure that other supports are educated about the child’s needs as well.  I need to know that when my foster child goes to camp, school, etc. that there are people who know how to be hands on with them.” –Jessica K.

“Having to remind them that it is not my job to entertain them.  We have a very calm household and this does not always match their culture.” –Melissa P.

“He feels like he’s the boss.  We have difficulties with listening and talking back.  Typical teenage behaviors.” –Kristen J.

“I would say it is less physically draining but more emotionally draining [than fostering little ones] because you feel like there is so much on the line for them.” –Charonne G.

 

What supports did you utilize to overcome these challenges?

“I have talks with my co-worker who has teen children of her own.” –Melissa P.

“The Family Case Manager is always helping and is very on top of their emails.  I have also used respite.” –Kristen J.

“We always had a plan and a schedule.  We received support from our Licensing Specialist, Family Case Manager, and Katie Petersen (Placement Liaison).  We also utilized KidsCycle (Include weblink here).” –Carrie S.

“Our Licensing Specialist has always helped us directly or referred us where to go.  We also utilize Caregiver Connections or Connecting Bridges.” –Laura E.

“The workers are supportive and will listen to your problems and needs.  The team has helped with transportation for our youth to attend basketball practice and games.  The Family Case Manager is quick to enroll our youth in services such as therapy.” –Marijo & Jacob Z.

 

What is one thing you wish you would've known before caring for an older youth?

“Never having parented a teenager before, having an overview of what to expect with this age range would have been helpful.” –Charonne G.

“This is a ‘learn as you go’ process.” –Catherine L.

“Older youth are often very behind academically.  We taught an older youth how to read after we realized she didn’t know the alphabet.” –Marijo & Jacob Z.

“There are often mental health needs that need to be addressed.” –Carrie S.

“I wish I knew how hard the phone call could be.  To make the decision on whether or not to accept placement.” –Melissa P.

 

Would you encourage other foster parents to consider caring for an older youth?

“Yes.  It is such a huge need.  Older youth are better in a foster home than in a group home; maybe they’ll get that family that they just click with.” –Kristen J.

“Yes.  You have great conversations with the older kids.  You get different experiences when caring for older kids versus caring for younger kids.” –Melissa P.

“Yes.  You don’t have baby/toddler tantrums.  We need more rounded foster parents.  You can’t be too strict.  You’re setting yourself up for failure if you are.” –Jessica K.

“Yes.  Teens understand and are aware of their situation.  They are better communicators, and you are able to have a faster and longer-lasting impact on them.” –Catherine L.

“Yes, because it is such a need. It is not as hands on as fostering little ones, so that is helpful.” –Charonne G.

“Definitely.  There’s a desperate need for it.  Older children bring something to the table that little kids don’t.  It’s fun to converse with them.  We got into this to save the world.” –Laura E.

“Yes, but it is important for people to know their limits.  I love knowing that I can help someone who deserves just as much of a chance as a 1 y/o child.” –Carrie S.

“It would depend on the foster parent.  You need patience.  Practice playful parenting while still maintaining boundaries.  You need to be flexible with their family culture.” –Marijo & Jacob Z.

 
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