Alexandria Ware

The gain is not the having of children; it is the discovery of love and how to be loving.

Sometimes when we think of foster care, many individuals attach a negative stigma to the name. Most of the time you hear about how people want to foster the younger children, and not the older ones, which leaves the older children feeling lost and unwanted sometimes. In my experience while I was in care, I had two foster homes that actually only took in older children to foster. For someone who spent 11 years in the child welfare system, I saw how hard it became for my social worker to place me as I started to become a teenager, which no child should ever have to deal with. I understand that older children can be difficult because of the age group they are at and the attitudes that they may have. In my own experience I only remember having two foster homes that only took in adolescents and one turned out to be my forever family. I understand opening your home to teenagers might seem daunting, but the truth is they’re just children who need guidance and stability during a turbulent time in their lives.

To begin, it’s important to note that many adolescents in foster care just want to be like a normal teenager. As any teenager is aging and developing it’s important that they feel accepted for who they are and are given the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them. Many adolescents who grow up in foster care as I did just want to feel normal and be able to attend and participate in normal activities for their age group. Many of those activities include being able to go to sleepovers, sports and many other things. In my own experience, I had some opportunities to be like a normal teenager, but at times I wasn’t allowed to participate. I think at times, my quest for independence scared my foster family, and they thought I wasn’t capable of handling certain activities or social situations. Over my time with advocating and meeting follow alumni of the foster care system, I found that many others had similar experiences to my own. The same reasons you would want to foster a younger child in care are the exact same reasons you should want to foster older youth in care—because you want to help make a positive impact on a child’s life.

From my experience, being an older youth in foster care can tend to begin to feel like nobody cares about you. I remember there were plenty of times I felt that my foster parents didn’t truly care about my wants and needs. I remember feeling like I didn’t have a voice, nor did anyone know what to do with me. I felt like everyone always gave up on me instead of trying to understand and get to know me. It is also important to remember that older youth in foster care have experienced trauma, just as younger children have. They are still just as deserving of love and stability. So, when it comes to fostering older youth, you should consider welcoming them into your lives because they have already been through trauma. Research shows that trauma stays with us for the rest of our lives and can rewire our brains. Research also shows us that adolescent’s brains are still developing until about 25 years of age.

All I can say is when I was a teenager in care, all I wanted was someone who didn’t give up on me, someone who was there to help to teach me life skills, the ability to feel like it wasn’t a crime to be in foster care, and perhaps most of all, that I was normal. Fostering older youth is one thing I am thankful for my two foster homes that did, because of them I am currently where I am in my life. I encourage you to consider opening your home and hearts to older youth in foster care, because your love and guidance can change their life forever.

The views of our bloggers do not necessarily reflect the views of the Kansas Department for Children and Families or Foster Kansas Kids.