It is heartbreaking to see the number of teenagers in the foster care system that age out without ever having a family to call their own. As a teen in the system, you have a much better understanding of your situation and what you were put through than a child. Many are hurt, and have built up emotional walls, or may be resentful to any possible foster families. There are plenty that are newly placed in the system, but it’s also tons that they have been in it since children- constantly being placed in different foster homes.
It’s easy to imagine how disheartening it would feel to watch your friends be placed into loving foster families that seem to be perfect for them, if you hadn’t yet found yours. Likewise, how hopeless it might feel to watch many incoming families that are strictly interested in fostering younger children, based on the ideal that it would be “easier,” or less intimidating.
It is no secret that becoming a part of a teenager’s life as a new foster family comes with many challenges. It’s not easy, there will be many hardships that you have to work through, but the reward is what makes everything worth it. Imagine becoming part of a teen’s life, and getting to watch them grow into adulthood, graduate high school, go off to college, or get their first job. Things that they may have been able to do if they had aged out of the system on their own.
Just because you didn’t grow up with them since they were younger doesn’t minimize the possibility for connection and deep relationship. As a foster parent to a teenager, even after they’ve aged out, you will be valued as trust-worthy, parental figure in their life- possibly the only one they have ever had.
If find yourself in a position to foster a child, don’t count out the older kids. They need you just as much as younger children- if not more. Though they may seem disinterested, odds are that they’re longing for connection. After all, everyone needs someone to share their life with, from their biggest dreams to the deepest struggles. In turn, you’ll find yourself learning to be more empathetic, patient and understanding. Yes, fostering a teen is difficult, but it is so needed in our community.