Many families interested in foster care are often afraid or nervous to foster “older” children because of the horror stories they may have heard about older foster children. The reality though is that most children in foster care are not scary children but instead are scared children and what they need is a loving, supportive family to provide a safe place to them. That is where you can step in!
When we use the term older children in foster care many people jump to teenagers but the term often applies to any of our kids over the age of 9 or 10, when they become more difficult to place because they are no longer “little kids”. These “older children” are not in fact old but are indeed still children, yes even the 16 and 17 year olds are still children (even if they like to think they are all grown up)! While their age may bring different challenges than a younger child, it also means they have more ability to grow, change, and learn from the examples before them.
So what are the benefits of fostering older children? Being able to communicate is one of the biggest ones. Older children in foster care can share with you what they are thinking and feeling and begin to process their experiences in ways that younger children cannot yet. There will be times that it may feel more like a burden then a blessing, like when a child screams “I hate you!” for the 4th time that day, but every bit of communication tells a piece of the story for that child that they are slowly inviting you into. Children being able to have their voices heard and validated has the power to be incredibly healing for them. There is a special kind of joy that comes when you can experience a 15-year-old boy lower his guard for a moment, start sharing with you about his life, and invite you into his hurt and his healing. It is a great honor to be the one trusted with these children’s stories and something unique you are able to experience when you care for school aged children.
Other benefits include being able to support older children and youth as they start to explore their interests and preferences. You can have the opportunity to see tangible growth in the child whether through a change in school grades or a new interest in a sport they have never tried before. As a foster parent to school aged children you are able to help them explore subjects that interest them, start thinking about future careers that may want to pursue, or begin teaching them life skills they will need later like how to wash their clothes or scramble an egg.
And for those parents who just cannot sit through one more episode of Cocomelon or listen to a single note of “Baby Shark”, fostering older children gives you the chance to participate in different experiences together, some that you may even enjoy. You could have the opportunity to show them your favorite superhero movies or introduce them to a great book series you can read together or take them to your favorite amusement park to ride roller coasters. Parenting older children can actually be fun and enjoyable at times, even if not every day is.
When fostering older children, you have the opportunity to provide so much more than just a safe place for them to sleep. You have the opportunity to speak into some of the most crucial years of child’s life, years where a positive adult relationship has the potential to change the trajectory of their lives. All children in foster care deserve a safe, loving, nurturing home to go to while they are in foster care and older children are no exception. Your home could be that home for an older child, you just have to say yes!
Want to hear more about fostering older children and teens? Check out these blog posts!
written by Lexie Fowler