Typically, when we think about fostering, it’s within the context of younger children; but the reality is nearly a quarter of the approximately 442,995 youth in foster care are age 14 and older. Fostering a teen presents a unique opportunity to mentor and pour into a young life who may have never known the unconditional love and safety net of a committed family. Imagine nearing adulthood and lacking the built-in support system that most teenagers take for granted (i.e., gas money, college tuition, sage advice, a place to do laundry).
While there are many nonprofit organizations providing support to youth who have aged out of the foster care system, there is simply no substitute for having a family committed to looking out for the long-term well-being of their foster/adoptive child. The truth is, we never stop needing our parents. When we are preparing to get married, have a child, or buy a home, we need our parents. When we experience loss, go through hardship, or feel lost, we need our parents. There are too many former foster youth who don’t have the option to pick up the phone and call mom or dad.
What can I expect?
While fostering a teen can be incredibly rewarding, there are definitely unique challenges within this age group as well. Moodiness and raging hormones are a normal part of the teenage experience, but for a youth who has been through traumatic experiences, this adds a layer of complication to the equation. Older kids may be less inclined to open up, as they’ve been hurt too many times in the past. But having a difficult start to their young life does not make them any less deserving of a family. Teens who have been placed in foster care all have a story to tell and a deep longing to be a part of a family unit (as every human does). At Koinonia, we have seen amazing transformations of teens who were once hardened by their negative experiences open themselves up to the process of healing and gain a new hope for what their future holds. Does it take substantial amounts of patience and grace? Absolutely. But there is truly nothing else like it.
What if I had my heart set on fostering/adopting a baby?
Like many prospective parents, you may have a strong interest in fostering/adopting younger children, specifically newborns and toddlers. There is usually a desire to experience all of the wondrous milestones with a younger child, such as their first steps, first words, etc. But there are plenty of exciting “firsts” that teenagers experience as well. Do you remember getting your driver’s license and experiencing the newfound freedom of driving a car? What about your first job, first date, and all the heart-racing emotions that come with being a teenager? These are just a few of the many milestone moments parents get to experience alongside their teens who are blossoming into young adults.
It’s easy to forget about the drawbacks of caring for a baby or toddler; the sleepless nights, constant diaper changes, ceaseless crying, and tantrums. One of the benefits of taking in a teen is the fact that they’re already potty trained, they’re usually capable of articulating their feelings, and they generally allow you to sleep through the night. They can even contribute to the household in a significant way because they’re old enough to do so. This is not to say that fostering a teen is the best option for all parents, but there are benefits to having a young adult in the house instead of a baby.
How can I learn more?
If you are interested in learning more about fostering a teen or if you have any questions about foster care/adoption, you can reach out to us by calling (877) 244-5374. To submit an online inquiry, click here.
We are so thankful for all of our incredible resource parents who have chosen to build their family through foster care or adoption. Every child and teen deserves a place to call home, and when we make a difference in one young life, we bring hope to a new generation.