Supported lodgings scheme helps young people leaving care cope with living independently
- Credit: Archant
Fostering older teenagers means giving them the skills for life as an adult. Here, a supportive lodgings carer with Islington Council and young adult who has left care share their stories
As a foster carer for children during their later teenage years, you play a vital role.
This is one of the most important stages during a young person’s development, when they transition to life as a fully independent adult.
Alongside traditional foster care, there are other ways to help older teenagers, including becoming a supportive lodgings carer, offering those aged 16-21 supported accommodation.
These young people cannot live with their own parents, but do not want the restrictions of foster care. You offer the young person their own room, lend a listening ear, and teach them how to budget, shop and cook, helping them to become fully independent by the time they move on to their own place.
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Below, an experienced supportive lodgings carer, and a young person fostered at the age of 16 provide further insight into how foster care works during these years.
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Jenny Jenny was in mainstream foster care between the ages of 16 and 19.
It was one of the best experiences in my life, because I had one of the best foster carers I could have asked for. In the beginning when I came here and they put me into that place, it was difficult. My foster mum was from Eritrea, and I’m Albanian, so our cultures were very different. I’d never been here before. It was weird.
My foster mum didn’t want me to forget where I was from, and tried to cook the food with me that I was eating back home, and go to places where I could meet people from my old country.
I didn’t know how to cook, and she taught me. We would look at different recipes and cook together. I was also open to learning about her culture, and now some of my favourite food is from Eritrea!
She also taught me how to clean and taught me so many personal skills. Now I’m independent because of that. I couldn’t speak English well when I came, because it’s my third language, but if I had any questions my foster mum would tell my foster sisters to help me and all of us together would sit down and help me with grammar and maths.
She helped me to overcome my mental difficulties. I didn’t want to open up at first but she was so warm with me. She made me feel so comfortable and made me feel that it was my house and family.
Having somebody being there for you, even when you leave care, is very important. She still calls me every day and asks me how I am. It makes you feel valuable and makes you feel someone is there for you.
She made me feel so welcome. I felt like I was her real daughter. I’ve finished my personal training course and now I’m doing a self-development course, which teaches you how to communicate professionally and present yourself at interview.
Beverly has been a supportive lodgings provider with Islington Council for seven years.
I’d always thought of foster caring, but because I worked I couldn’t commit that amount of time. Then I saw an advert for supportive lodgings, where they did want people who were working, because of the experience they could bring, so it really suited me.
Don’t have a belief that all youngsters are the same – you’ve got to really tune into them. Because they come from such diverse backgrounds, some might be more mature than others.
That said, your overriding thought must be that they’re here to gain independent skills. Take their background and try and use that to achieve these aims.
You should also have good communication with everybody involved. I have a supervisor, and then the young person will have an advisor, and also a social worker if they are under 18.
There are some things I can do myself; for example I might notice a health problem, and I can make sure they’re registered with a doctor nearby, but I would also mention it to the social worker. They will have a more in depth relationship.
One of the most important things to pass on to the young person is confidence. They may want to say something, but they think that because they’re in your home they don’t have a right to. Try to be as informal as you can in some settings, and let them know they’re not going to be judged.
You also need to teach them to budget. For example, if you’re cooking, you can show them how to do bulk cooking, and the importance of nutrition – little things like that.
If they’re of school age then education tends to be quite catered for. If they’re going to college they have to be more independent, but you can support them. If something has happened at college listen and maybe share your views.
I’ve learned that youngsters will pick up very quickly how you’re thinking. You’ve got to give them respect, but also remember there’s a support aspect. Say someone’s keeping to themselves, you should ascertain why that is.
If you can pin down how they’re feeling then you can offer sympathy, but you also have to be assertive in helping them take the path that will help them.
Islington Council run training courses all the time that are free to attend. They’re very eye opening for the info you get that you wouldn’t get anywhere else. I went on one around trauma and I just found it really deep. You don’t leave thinking you’re an expert but you get a flavour.
Some youngsters could have come from a war torn background for example, and whatever’s happened could have an impact that’s still going on. You also get a chance to meet other people and share your experiences.
Providing supportive lodgings is absolutely rewarding. A lot of your previous experiences are challenged. It’s a challenge but it is enjoyable. It’s won’t be boring and it won’t be easy. Your emotions are involved, it’s not clinical, so be as level headed as you can. You’ve really got to have patience.
Make them feel like they exist. They know the next step from here is going out on their own – everything they’re doing is a step towards that – but hopefully when they’ve left they can always call you.