Fostering teenagers with the support of Islington Council can enrich their lives and yours
- Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
“I try and do my best to enhance the young person’s capabilities. I’m very focused on their education, their wellbeing and their cultural needs.”
Fostering children over the age of 11, through their teenage years, is a unique experience, and brings with it its own set of rewards and challenges. When fostering with Islington Council, carers receive an allowance, with weekly payments totalling more than £430, to put towards training and the costs of raising a child.
A child’s adolescence can be a difficult, but also an exciting period, and this is often reflected in their behaviour.
Foster carers need to be understanding of the young person’s problems and aspirations, and be able to communicate with them on a level they can relate to, while also enforcing clear boundaries.
To do this, Islington Council provide extensive training and support. Every foster carer has a dedicated social worker, and the council’s AMASS service is a multi-agency team made up of specialist staff from social care, health, employment and education.
The team works jointly with case holding and fostering social workers to improve outcomes for young people aged 10-16 maintaining stability in the home and foster placements. This means you will have far more support than if you were to foster through an agency.
Teenage years are an important time for educational and social development, when a young person starts making decisions and gaining the life skills that will shape their future.
They need strong role models and you will be a central figure in their growth, guiding them through the transition into adulthood and helping them plan for the future.
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Here, two experienced foster carers share their stories and advice.
Sue has been a foster carer in Islington for four and a half years.
You get so much from the kids, and I just think they’re such fun. There are ups and downs, but it’s very fulfilling. You grow together – I’ve learned such a lot myself.
What initially got me started was working in a secondary school with teenagers, I’d always got on well with them and done a lot of training. When my own children started to leave home I had a spare room, and thought I’d give something back to the borough.
For me the most important thing is providing consistency and stability. Your expectations should be small; sometimes you go in little steps.
I’ve looked after one girl for four years; she’s 19 now and still lives with me. At first she didn’t get on at school, and was quite chaotic with her behaviour and getting up.
She now has an apprenticeship – it’s so fulfilling to look at her and see her manage herself, and get herself there. She’s completely independent.
Another important thing is to be reflective, look after yourself and not take things personally. Sometimes children will do something that seems personal but absolutely isn’t. I’ve had to learn that it’s not all about me. It’s also good to pick your battles.
Because I’ve lived in the borough, I’m lucky and often I know of the people they socialise with. It’s useful to get involved with them: let them bring their friends round and don’t be judgemental. Then you’ve got a better idea of what they’re up to.
Often they’re not getting on with their families when they come to you. To try and help them manage that is important. You never comment on their parents, but help them manage it themselves.
I’ve had a mega amount of training from Islington Council and it’s really useful. I have a fantastic supervising social worker, who I would not have been able to do this without. We speak regularly and meet at least once a month.
Sharon has been a foster carer with Islington council for 18 and a half years.
I first got interested in looking after children because my sister was a foster carer, and I was her support. I saw what she was doing to love, help and assist the children.
The initial training I think is excellent. It was beneficial to me because it helped me to develop myself while I was training; it helped me to understand what the young person could be feeling. The courses assisted me in how to deal with trauma and challenging behaviour.
After I enrolled I didn’t look after a child for the first six months, but I attended every training course. I always advise people to do the training – it will help you to discover whether or not you’re capable.
There are times when a young person is placed in your care, and through no fault of their own they’re extremely angry, because they’ve been taken away from their parents. They might be cheeky, slam doors, or use inappropriate language – anything to try and break the boundaries you’ve got in place at home.
Anything I think is of concern I record it, contact the duty social services and let the supervising social worker and the young person’s social worker know.
I’ve got a 38-year-old son, so he was a help because he’d take the boys to football and give them guidance in the house. They could relate to him too.
I try and do my best to enhance the young person’s capabilities. I’m very focused on their education, their wellbeing and their cultural needs. If they’re from another culture I ensure I get information about it, put up their flags and so on – to make sure they don’t feel like their identity is being taken away from them.
All the teenagers I care for are part of the family. Once they come under my wing I try to make them feel comfortable. I include them in everything I’m doing – family parties and functions – and take them on holiday.
I took one young man to Gambia and he thoroughly enjoyed it. He focused better after that. While we were there he saw children playing with tyres as toys, compared to in England where everyone has electronics. That really opened up his eyes and changed his behaviour – it helped him to develop empathy.
Click here for more information on becoming a foster carer, email email@example.com, or call 0800 073 0428.
BENEFITS OF FOSTERING WITH ISLINGTON COUNCIL
- Monthly supervision and support
- A dedicated social worker
- 24-hour expert advice
- Educational support
- An active foster carer’s association offering representation and peer support with weekly coffee mornings
- Training, social worker support and support groups
- Close working with professional teams, including child social workers, and health and educational specialists
- Free membership of the Fostering Network
- Legal protection, insurance and public liability cover