Michelle’s Story: Fostering Teens

Michelle says, “Fostering children of any age comes with its challenges, but it is also incredibly rewarding."

Michelle had been thinking about fostering for years. When her own daughter had grown up and moved out of the family home, Michelle decided the timing was right to give something back and foster.  

Fostering since January 2020, Michelle has cared for toddlers and teens. From their experiences they found fostering teenagers works best for them.   

Fostering teens compared to toddlers

Michelle says, “Fostering children of any age comes with its challenges, but it is also incredibly rewarding.

“When you foster a young child, they need you 24/7. From the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed, and sometimes in the middle of the night too when they have had a scary dream.

“Teenagers on the other hand are a lot more independent. Your role is more about offering them guidance and talking about emotions, so you help guide them to make the best choices for themselves now and in the future. And of course, being a bit of a taxi driver at times too.”

Welcoming a teen into your home

You have to take it slowly and make sure you give them their space,” says Michelle.  

“Before we welcome our teens, we made sure their rooms were ready. We set them up with Netflix, so they could just go to their rooms and escape if they needed to.

“We set some really simple rules, one being that we always have dinner together every day and that I would drive them to and from school. This gave the perfect opportunities to check in with them, see how they were getting on and slowly it allowed for the barriers to come down.”

It takes time

“You might want to go in straight away and be their best friend, but it just won’t work. They will reject you. You have to take baby steps. You don’t know about their previous experiences with adults, so you have to give a little, then take a step back and then give a little more.  

“It is also really important that you follow through on what you say you are going to do. If you say you are going to take them somewhere or are going to ring their social worker you need to do it as it helps them to build trust in you and to know that they can rely on you.”   

Fostering teens is fun

“I find it a lot easier fostering teens,” says Michelle. “When I fostered little ones, the activities were very much tailored around what the child/ toddler likes to do. Going to the park, play centres etc.”

“Fostering teens is completely different. We are able to share with our teens the activities we enjoy as a family. Last summer we went paddle boarding, kayaking, and swimming in man-made pools on the lake. We also enjoy days out together, going to different parts of the country to explore new cities, as well as cooking meals together or going out for meals.”

“With teenagers, you also have the flexibility to approach things differently. We know Christmas can be a tough time for our foster children, so instead of having a traditional Christmas Day, we instead made it a bit of a party. We got dressed up in festive fancy dress outfits, enjoyed a Santa dash down the street, and did a quiz, before sitting down to enjoy some festive films together.”

You learn from your teens  

“Sometimes our teens will pop downstairs to ask a quick question, and then before we know it two hours have passed and we have put the world to rights. We have had chats about all sorts of things.”

“They have taught me a lot, changed how I see things because of how they view the world and what they have been through.”

Being part of a wider fostering community

Speaking about the support she received Michelle said, “Fostering is not like looking after your own children, there are a lot of people involved, social workers etc.  You need to be able to talk about the things that are happening so you can provide the best possible support to the child in your care.

“We are really lucky to be a part of the Doncaster Foster Carers Association here in Doncaster. It is a brilliant network of experienced foster carers, who are all here to support each other and share experiences. They also have a weekly youth club, which is great for the kids as they can just spend time together being kids and making friendships along the way.

“We also have our own supervising social worker who is brilliant, she is always available and there if I need her. All this support has been so important.”

Michelle’s advice to anyone thinking about fostering

“Just do it, it is the best thing I have ever done. It has been harder at times than I thought it might be, but then you look back and see how far the children have come and it is all worthwhile. I waited 12 years to pick up that phone to enquire to foster, and I wished I had done it sooner.”

Discover if you can Foster for Doncaster

To foster you need to be over 21, have a spare bedroom and live in or close to Doncaster.

There is no such thing as a typical foster carer. Foster for Doncaster needs more people who can offer a child stability, love and caring home, to get in touch.

Find out how you can make a positive difference to a local child or meet our Foster for Doncaster at one of our community events near you.

You can also find out more by calling our team on 01302 737 789 or completing our online enquiry form below.

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