Over two thirds of children in our care are aged ten and over. This presents a pressing need to find additional foster carers for older children and teens who find themselves in need in our city.
Fostering teenagers is a unique opportunity to inspire the next generation. It is never too late to make a difference to young lives as foster carer, Zhoura Blakeman, shares: “I love working with young people – they have great personalities. I love to support them and put them on the right track in life, watching them grow as people and seeing them thriving in society as adults.”
All children have their challenges regardless of their age and teenagers are no exception. However the benefits of fostering teens far outweigh any difficulties. Zhoura, who has fostered for 15 years with Foster Portsmouth, continued: “There are some challenges as a foster carer because some of the young people I take do have complex needs, but the rewards are wonderful.”
The myths persist
There are stubborn myths that persist around the fostering of teens. They are often pigeonholed with descriptions such as grumpy, uncommunicative, noisy and messy; in short, hard work. However, if they do display any of these behaviours it is either typical teen behaviour all teenagers experience or they may be born of insecurity, fear and confusion. Sadly, these myths can prevent potential foster carers from applying or considering older children, ultimately denying these children a loving home.
Some of our teenagers will have experienced neglect, trauma or abuse. However, this doesn’t necessarily translate to challenging behaviour. Instead, if they are shown they are cared for and that someone is taking an interest in their wellbeing, the rewards of caring for older children can be significant.
We simply ask our applicants to keep an open mind regarding the children they feel they can care for while they explore the options, gain insight from our existing foster carers, and discover the support on offer.
14-year-old Josh* – who loves the outdoors; going to the park, walking in the woods, climbing trees and looking for insects – is looking for a long-term foster family. He has now gained in confidence and is doing very well in school. Josh’s social worker describes him as having a ‘great personality’ and says he can be very reflective.
Role models and positive influences
Your home may be the first safe and nurturing environment our teens have known. They may have built up defences to protect themselves which will require patience to break down so they can begin to thrive. This will require taking time to listen and get to know them, as well as the introduction of structure such as routine and boundaries.
You may have to navigate any differences in expectations that may exist between their family home and your own. To do this, you’ll need to be flexible and be prepared to tackle the issues that may affect them at different stages including exams, teenage moods, access to electronics and relationships including dating.
At this pivotal point in their lives – when they are beginning to make key decisions, explore their opinions, form their identity and discovering their beliefs – having someone reliable to talk to and gain guidance from proves invaluable. All children need to explore their potential, good role models and positive influences to build trust, learn to manage their feelings, and develop strong relationships with friends – and family if appropriate – and to organise their lives as they venture into the more demanding world of studying, training or work.
You could do it too
Experience of working with or parenting teenagers or young people is an advantage. However, you’ll receive excellent training, 24/7 support, and you’d be part of an experienced and highly qualified team around the child.
Zhoura explains: “If you have a spare bedroom, then you can welcome a young person into your home and give them the nurture and care that they’re looking for.”
The council welcomes all enquiries about fostering. This could be a short or long term arrangement for a child or siblings until they’re ready to live independently or be reunited with family, support for unaccompanied minors or children with a disability, supported lodgings to develop their independent living skills, parent and baby placements, or respite care.
Anyone aged 18+ with a spare bedroom could foster with Foster Portsmouth regardless of their age, gender, faith, ethnicity, sexuality, marital or work status, or whether they rent or own their own home.
Zhoura said: “I was managing a grassroots football team for vulnerable children. These teenage boys – a lot of who had complex needs – used to end up coming to our house as they knew my sons. It was then that one of my friends said I should look into fostering.”
“My first step was to contact Portsmouth City Council. They sent a social worker to visit myself and the family over tea and biscuits. [They] asked lots of questions, including why I wanted to be a foster carer, and we filled out some forms. He got an insight into our family and said there weren’t any barriers and that we would be really good to be recruited.”
“I just couldn’t wait to be a foster carer; I felt super excited. I’d keep phoning Portsmouth City Council to find out when I was going to have my first child. This was a young five year old male, and it was the best thing. I’ve never looked back since after all these years. Honestly.”
Zhoura, who now also works in a residential children’s home as a bank worker, explained: “When I decided to become a foster carer I was working part time, but that’s not a problem with Portsmouth City Council. You can still work and foster at the same time. I was able to balance my time; working part-time and being a foster carer.”
“As I had teenage children my own, it made sense to foster that age group.”
One extended family
When placing a child with a foster family, we consider a range of criteria to ensure the best match possible and secure its success. These include not only the age and gender of the child and those of the foster carer’s children, but also the number of children in the home, location, ethnicity and religion. However, the most important consideration is the individual needs of the child and a foster carer’s experience.
The Blakeman home can be a busy one on special occasions as all the young people Zhoura has fostered keep in touch and they enjoy big extended family gatherings. One young person who came to live with Zhoura aged 11 who still regularly visits is Aziz who started his own personal training business in 2017 and now has his own tenancy with the council. “I’m so proud of what he’s achieved,” says Zhoura.
“I’m proud to be a carer for so many young people that have come into my life and also watching them strive into adulthood. I have a lifetime of connections with these young people.”
There is an amazing support network…
Carers receive a wide range of quality training and round the clock support including through our mentoring scheme and our innovative award-winning Mockingbird programme which provides a support network of other foster carers similar to that of an extended family. They also receive competitive fees and allowances.
“There is such an amazing support network and so much training. I have my own social worker who is a regular visitor and the child has a social worker as well,” Zhoura confirms. “It’s really important to have a social worker because sometimes you may be struggling or you need to know about courses you need to go on. They’re there to support you.”
“We also have coffee mornings and a regular foster carer lunch where we can all get together and share our stories. We bring our young people with us as well.”
Zhoura adds: “I also have sons of my own who are older and have delegated authority to look after the young people along with myself. There’s also good financial support from Portsmouth City Council. They help with food, clothing, utility bills and also with travel.”
Do you have the time and patience?
To foster teenagers, you need to be robust, caring, consistent and have a lot of energy. A good sense of humour helps too. But Aziz says the best foster carers are ones that offer unconditional care. “Showing all aspects of care at all times is what makes a good foster carer,” he says, “even when times are tough.”
Zhoura ended, “I would say that it’s so rewarding to be a foster carer and to give these young people an opportunity to strive forward in life and to have positive outcomes. If I can do it, any of you can do it too.”
“I can’t express what kind of job this is. It is the best thing in the world… absolutely the best thing. So rewarding. I absolutely love working with the young people.”
Fostering teenagers and supporting them as they navigate their way towards adult life is highly rewarding. Do you have the time and patience to help these young people flourish and meet their potential?
To enquire about fostering with Foster Portsmouth, or to arrange a 1:1 with one of our experienced team or existing foster carers, please fill in our contact form below, call 023 9283 4071 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Some names are changed to protect identities.