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Seven tips for fostering teenagers to help them settle in their new home

Overview: Helping new and potential Foster Carers to prepare for fostering teenagers with tips, plus answers to frequently asked questions about fostering teenagers.

Why foster teenagers?

Our teenage years are a time of hormonal changes, academic decisions and brain development. Add the need to leave the home you are used to into this mix, and it’s easy to see why our fostered young people need a helping hand. 

Fostering teens comes with its own challenges, but there’s also the reward of making a positive impact. As a Foster Carer who looks after teenagers, you’ll be working with young people a pivotal time in their lives. 

By providing support, continuity and stability for teens and young people, you will have the opportunity to change their lives. You will help them learn skills for independence, how to build trusting relationships and prepare them for a better future. 

Teenagers don’t come with an instruction manual, but from experience, we know a thing or two about how to help adolescents adjust to new surroundings. In this post, we answer some of the most asked questions about teens in foster care. We’ll also share some tips for welcoming teenagers into your home. 

As an approved Foster Carer with Five Rivers, you’ll also learn about the young people you care for through our matching process, which can help you tailor your approach to each young person’s needs.

What is the oldest age that you can foster?

Young people can come into foster care right up until the age of 18. Teens can come into foster care temporarily due to reasons such as the illness of a family member. Or, they may need a home on a longer-term basis due to circumstances such as abuse, neglect or addiction in the home. Some teenagers may have witnessed domestic abuse. Under government legislation, fostered young people in the UK can now stay with their foster families by mutual agreement until the age of 21. 

As for Foster Carers, there’s no upper age limit for the profession, though you will need to be able to meet the needs of any young people in your care. To do this, you will need the time and motivation to make a difference in the lives of young people. Potential Foster Carers of all ages complete a medical assessment during the approval process.

What happens when a foster child turns 18?

Under England’s ‘staying put’ guidance, when a foster child turns 18, with mutual agreement they can now remain with their foster family up until the age of 21. Staying put arrangements aim to provide continuity and much-needed support to help a young person transition into adulthood. The arrangements do not come under fostering services regulations. You can speak to your support team if you’d like to know more about arranging post-18 plans.

How would you make a foster child feel welcome in your home? Tips for fostering teenagers

Teaching teens to be independent and preparing them for adulthood is a big part of fostering teenagers. Building a bond and trust with teenagers in your home will enable you to share life skills and model the tasks they need to master for adult living. But the small things you might do to welcome a younger child into your home won’t necessarily translate to helping a teen settle. Each young person also comes with their own experiences and personalities. While there’s no perfect formula for making each unique individual feel at home, following these seven tips can help you create a welcoming environment to help them thrive. 

  1. Be mindful of the ATICTM approach. All Five Rivers Foster Carers receive introductory training in attachment and trauma-informed care (ATICTM) as part of the application process. The knowledge and skills you will learn will help you to recognise and manage different needs to help those in your care.
  2. Give them their own space. Teenagers, more than other age groups, prefer to have more time to themselves. Giving them extra space needn’t mean leaving them ‘alone’. When they arrive, you can show them their bedroom and let them know where you’ll be, what you’re doing and what time dinner is so they can join you.
  3. Listen to and respect their opinions. Our teenage years are when we start to shape our views of the world—feeling listened to can improve our self-worth.
  4. Keep the lines of communication open. Teens may naturally share less about their day than younger children. Building a trusting relationship and letting them know you’re there for them if they need a listening ear is essential.
  5. Have boundaries and help them find structure and routine. To prepare teens for independent living, you’ll need to help them navigate systems and routines. Whether it’s getting to school on time or being home at an appropriate time, consistency and communication can really help.
  6. Be collaborative. Introducing house rules to teenagers isn’t always easy. Sometimes, sitting down together to agree on boundaries and schedules works better by giving them a hand in decision-making.
  7. Enjoy fun family time. Teens might have moved on from things younger children enjoy, like trips to the park, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy family time together. Outdoor activities, participating in sports, or watching a film together provide the opportunity to bond and have fun. 

What should you not say to a foster child?

There are some phrases that should always be avoided and topics to approach mindfully when it comes to talking to a foster child of any age. For example, saying negative things about their family can be harmful. While empathy is a fundamental characteristic for Foster Carers, saying you understand how a foster child feels about being in foster care can diminish their feelings and experiences. 

When talking with teens, while they may speak at a more adult level and strongly voice opinions, it’s important not to criticise or tease. As you get to know a teen in your care better, you may find you establish a rapport with ‘family banter’. Foster Carer training will help prepare you to handle difficult topics such as family life.

Could you give a teenager a safe and nurturing home?

There’s no specialist qualification required to foster teenagers. You don’t need to have parented teenagers before or worked with them, though people who have previously been involved with youth work often move into fostering teenagers. We’d love to hear from you if you have the space, time, and motivation to help put a teenager on a path to a brighter future. Get in touch or call 0330 162 6381.


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