Fostering teenagers can be enlightening and rewarding
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Foster carers are desperately needed for Norfolk teenagers who are in care, explains Julie Brooks, manager of the Enhanced Fostering Team at Norfolk County Council.
She explains why a stable and loving home can make an incredible difference to a young person, while also being an enlightening and rewarding experience for the foster carer.
Q: Why are the teenagers you need homes for currently in care?
We desperately need foster carers for teenagers requiring homes for all sorts of reasons. Some have already been looked after for a time and now their foster placement is coming to an end; some have been in and out care since they were very small, having had a very neglectful start in life and are in care because they need to be somewhere safe. Many have parents that dearly love them but just don’t have the capability to look after them themselves. Some have been in residential care, while they have had some therapy or trauma-based work and are then ready to try mainstream fostering. Others might be unaccompanied teenage asylum seekers or even teenage parents, needing parent and child placements. Lockdown has been hard for many children in Norfolk, who have not had that safety net of going into school.
Q: Who makes a good foster carer to a teenager?
Lots of people. We need people from all sorts of backgrounds to care for our teenagers in different ways. They need someone who meets their particular needs, and these differ greatly – so teenagers and carers are matched very carefully. We have more young people coming forward now to be foster carers, yet we also have others who have been in a professional role: retired teachers or emergency services personnel, perhaps. Some carers still work full or part-time while fostering mainly as respite carers. Some welcome the teenagers into their homes to live with them all the time, while for others it might just be a weekend a month; some are emergency carers we can call on if we need them. Foster carers are paid an allowance which is dependent on experience and training.
Q: What training and support is there?
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After the assessment process, everyone goes through training over a number of weekends, but our teams and fostering support workers will always be there to support carers through any placement. In addition, foster carers have a “buddy,” someone who has been a foster carer themselves and will be very experienced at looking after teenagers. Our foster carers also often become part of a network, where they support each other through various groups.
Q: Tell us about the challenges of fostering a teenager?
Some situations with teenagers can be challenging but our careful matching process helps with this. From a young person’s perspective, they need foster carers who can make them feel safe but also feel that they are being listened to, have some control over their lives and have their views taken into account. As a foster carer, you need to make them feel that they are genuinely wanted and can provide a sense of normality for these young people.
Q: Why is fostering a teenager so rewarding?
Long and lasting relationships can be forged. Some of our older foster carers say living with a teenager keeps them young! The teenager teaches them new skills and can be very amusing and engaging. Some of these young people have never had the simple family experiences many of us take for granted – celebrating Christmas, baking at home or going to the beach, for example. It can be seeing their joy at these small pleasures that is so rewarding, as well as seeing them grow in confidence and respond to the fact that someone is now spending time with them, listening to them and letting them know they are there for them.
For more information visit www.norfolk.gov.uk/fostering or call 01603 306649.