Don’t think you have what it takes to foster a child? We’re here to bust a few myths about that!
You may have questions like I’m not the right person because: I’m hesitant to foster a teen. Can I just apply for a baby or toddler instead?
While Omni Visions works to find foster homes for children of all ages who have been temporarily removed from their biological homes, we do end up with a lot of pre-teens and teenagers to be fostered. That’s because they are the age group most in need.
In fact, that’s the case across the country. A recent national report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows that:
- In 2020, more than 40% of kids in foster care were between ages 6 to 15.
- 14% of foster children were between ages 16 to 20.
- Older youth spend more time in foster care and experience greater instability in their foster placements.
Adolescence is a critical phase of child development. That applies to kids in foster care, too.
Every child who comes into the foster care system, whatever their age, has experienced some level of trauma. Omni’s expertise in providing trauma-informed care means that we focus on treating the whole child. We consider what they’ve gone through and how that drives their coping mechanisms and behaviors.
This approach is the foundation to all that we do. It informs how we help children, pre-teens and older kids heal. Foster parents benefit as well. We all start from a place of curiosity and seek understanding.
Why Do So Many Teens Need Foster Care?
Some regions of the country are still feeling repercussions from the pandemic. Many people suffered social, health or financial setbacks. Unstable or volatile home situations often became even worse for its youngest members.
And that meant an increased risk for neglect, abuse, mental health issues and safety — and more children needing to be removed from their biological homes.
Even more disheartening, many who had already been approved or had welcomed a child into their home found it necessary to back out of their commitment. All of this disruption has contributed to a significant loss of available homes and more difficulty placing children.
To use just one example, there are currently more than 9,000 children in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services needing foster homes.
Are you wondering how a teen might fit in with your family, especially with your other children?
Omni understands that concern. It’s the reason that our foster parent training also offers guidance that acknowledges everyone else in the home. After all, they’re going to be part of this new fostering endeavor, too.
Our recruitment and training staff will consider the needs of your entire family and help you determine what age or type of child would best fit your family.
They will help you prepare to work with children from a variety of backgrounds with different needs. Omni Visions wants to set up every family and foster child for success.
While you are fostering, Omni’s eye is always on what’s best for the child. Helping the adults in a child’s life a key part of that is effort.
Our foster case managers and care coordinators teach parenting as well as domestic violence education, coordinate community resources for each child and supervise child/parent visitation.
“These parents want nothing more than to get their children back — but often feel like failure is a given,” says Michelle Brewer, North Carolina Executive Director.
Foster parents are a crucial link in the work that goes into successfully reuniting a child with their parents. Omni Visions is with you every step of the way. Our specialized training and 24/7 wrap-around family support helps foster parents understand the language and needs of their foster child, whatever their age.
Maybe a teen is exactly the right fit for you…
Of course, our prospective foster parents always make the final decision when it comes to placing a child of any age into your home. It must be a good fit for you and the child.
Providing a safe, secure, loving home during this healing transition is the priority. There are criteria, standards and goals to be met, certainly. But how you and your foster child relate can be as unique as your own personalities.
Consider your own strengths and lifestyle. Are you patient? A good listener? Do you remember what it was like being a teenager?
Which child — for example, one who is quiet or more outgoing, athletic or artistic, an animal lover — would be a good fit? Make an honest assessment.
And then leave yourself open to the possibilities…
You may relish the idea of helping a teenager navigate everyday activities (acing that big test, joining school clubs or playing sports, shopping for the Spring dance, studying for their driver’s license) but really cannot imagine potty training a toddler. And that’s okay.
Remember, being a foster parent for a teen opens the door to the possibility of really making a huge impact on their lives. Every child needs at least one caring adult in their lives, and you can be that adult.
Fostering a teen means you get to help them plan for their future, discover what they are passionate about, and model healthy family life (before they start having a family of their own).
Fostering a teen can be really fun!
Fostering a Teen Can Be Rewarding
Jaclyn Beckler, LMSW, Level 3 Therapist, Omni Visions Chattanooga, spends her days working with teens in foster care. She knows what positive outcomes are possible — just how bright the future can be — when someone opens their life and home to a child, especially a teenager.
One of those success stories still resonates with her: Noah says, “[My foster mom] changed my life. I remember the first night I got there, she helped me make my lunch for school the next day. I cried that night in my bedroom. Happy tears. That was the first time I brought my own lunch to school. There was never anything to be scared of there.”