Fostering a child can be an exciting yet overwhelming idea for those who have never done it before. If you have ever considered opening your doors to any of the thousands of foster children in Georgia, you have probably thought of questions like:
- What if the child has a hard time adjusting to my home?
- What if the child struggles to mesh with my family?
- What if the child requires certain levels of care that I cannot provide?
- What if I get a teen?
For many foster parents, the most intimidating possibility is the placement of a teen. Even outside of foster parenting, being responsible for a teenager is hard work and comes with several challenges. However, the idea of foster parenting a teen brings with it some unfair and unchecked myths.
To debunk the myths of fostering a teen, take a look at three of the most common myths we hear, as well as our responses to them:
Myth #1: Teens Enter Foster Care Because of Their Bad Behavior
Fact: While some teens may be placed into foster care due to their behaviors, the vast majority of teens are placed because of the behaviors of their parents or the circumstances affecting their home. Plus, teens who are placed because of their own actions almost always have a larger family problem occurring at home.
Foster care is not a punishment for any child’s behavior—it is a system that is designed to remove a child from a crisis that is beyond their control and move them to a safer environment on a temporary basis.
Family crisis and a chaotic home life can cause children of any age to develop poor coping skills or negative behaviors as a reaction, but for the most part, children are not placed into foster care because of what they have done.
There are countless parent-created circumstances that can cause a teen to be removed from their home and placed into a foster home temporarily. These circumstances or issues can include:
- Domestic abuse
- Parental drug abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Unsafe living conditions
Myth #2: Foster Teens Are Way Harder to Parent Than Younger Children
Fact: All children come with challenges, and parenting anyone can sometimes seem difficult.
It would be dishonest and unreasonable to claim that foster children, including teens, are all perfectly behaved and never present challenges to their foster families. However, kids are kids, and teens are teens, and sometimes they will have hard days. Parenting a foster child is often on the same scale as parenting your own child or a child who has not faced the same challenges that they have.
Foster teens have been through a lot, whether they have spent their entire lives in the foster care system or are new to it. The crises they were pulled from can cause painful memories, emotions that are difficult to process, and coping difficulties as they process situations that would be too much for anyone to handle at their stage in life. On top of all that, they are also struggling with the same typical biological changes and growing pains that other kids their age face. Hormones are raging at this time, regardless of family life, which can sometimes be its own kind of trauma for a child.
But none of that means every teen will automatically be poor-mannered or out of hand when they walk through your door. With kindness, compassion, and communication, you can help a teen by giving them a safe and stable environment away from the chaos.
Foster teens need parenting just as much as younger children, although each parenting style should look different. Younger children require more instructional, hands-on approaches, and teens thrive with more understanding and independence.
Parenting any teen can be challenging because you understand they are still young and have so much to learn, but they are so occupied with wanting space and freedom. Striking the balance between parenting them and trusting them to take an independent step or two is a process, but it is possible to do with the right tools and resources.
Myth #3: Foster Teens Don’t Need Parenting Since They Are Almost Out of the System
Fact: While foster kids can age out of the system at 18, they still need care, support, and encouragement at any age. Plus, there are programs in place to extend a teen’s stay in foster care until they are 21 for additional beneficial care and support.
Eighteen is such a young age to be fully independent and away from the resources a family provides. Teens who never find their way back to their homes and who age out of foster care at 18 are at a much greater risk of:
- Abusing substances
- Battling untreated mental, physical, and behavioral health issues
- Becoming incarcerated
- Experiencing homelessness
- Experiencing housing instability
- Living without employment
- Participating in criminal activity
- Receiving no further schooling
We reach full development in our early to mid-20s, and no teen should be left to face life alone and without support before they are equipped to do so. Deciding a teen doesn’t need help because their time is almost up anyway almost instantly sets them up for failure. Foster teens suffer on their own without any parental influence or guidance—they need parenting, support, and encouragement up to and even after they age out of the foster care system.
Foster teens across Georgia need a caring home. If it’s time to open your doors to a teen in foster care, talk to Generational Child Care about becoming a foster parent.
At Generational Child Care, we offer continuous support and the resources you need to become a foster parent in Georgia. Our teens and children need loving homes, and we invite you to join other foster parents in the mission to love and support them with a safe place to live. Discover more about becoming a foster parent in Georgia by contacting 478-477-1289.