On Taking In Teenagers

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Today, I’ll be discussing the matter of taking in teenagers in a foster situation. A lot of people are scared of them and I’m not really sure why. Okay, yeah, they’re moody and these particular teens come with issues. Bad issues. But they still need somewhere to call home.

I happen to teach teens for a living. And yes, there are a few who have unstable home lives. It’s not easy being a teen, hormones raging, conflicting thoughts about where their future is headed, stress from wondering why their boyfriend didn’t call, all the stuff that comes along with being an average teen, and then add to that the burden of not having adults available to truly guide and lead.

There’s a movie that came out a few years ago: The Blind Side.  Most people have heard about it because Sandra Bullock won her first Oscar for the role she played. It’s one of those tear jerkers that somehow make an impression on our lives. I want to take a moment to dig into that story and how it would have looked in reality.

Michael Oher was alone. He was a teenager (and intimidatingly big, I might add) and had no one until one day a mother (not his own) took pity on him and opened up her home. That had to be scary. For one, she most likely had no foster training and no idea what to expect. Because of that, she also most likely didn’t have any counselors or therapists helping her and her family deal with taking in a troubled teen. He had no file, no medical history. I’m sure some part of her worried that he would steal things or terrorize her children. But she opened up her home anyway. Why? Because Oher was in desperate need. foreverkids | "Aging Out": Life After Foster Care  “My friend was in the foster care system for most of her life. She was living in a group home, and when she turned eighteen she was told to pack up. She packed up and they gave her a bus ticket.”:

We all know what happened from there. Michael Oher went on to become a major NFL star. I wonder where he’d be today if that mother hadn’t seen his desperation. She saw beyond his race, his size and his age. She saw a child in need.

Ironically, the actor who played Oher in The Blind Side, Quinton Aaron, has a similar story. I wonder where he’d be (another large teenage male) had someone also not opened their home. Certainly he wouldn’t have starred in a movie.

I decided to write about this because I’ve come up against the question, “are you sure you want to do that?” a lot when it comes to accepting a teen placement in my home. Yes I’m sure. These kids are in one of the most critical stages of their lives, quite possibly the most critical stage in their lives. Do I expect to turn out a major NFL star or some other great achiever by taking in teenagers? No. I don’t expect much, honestly. But I hope. I hope that my influence will make a difference in their lives. I hope that they will learn important skills for surviving the adult world while they are in my care. I hope that I can have a hand in changing their lives for the better.

Now, I do need to address one issue. Just because we’re willing to accept teenagers into our home does not mean we’re equipped to handle certain behaviors. That’s the nice thing about how the system works. Yes, I know, it’s not the best system in the world, and a lot of public placement agencies are incompetent. They are, however, very good at finding the right fit for every child. Where I live, there’s actually a home that specializes in helping and caring for extremely troubled adolescent males. The county doesn’t really know why this particular home is so good at helping these young men cope with their pasts and control their emotions but does that really matter if these young men are able to redirect their lives from one that would inevitably lead towards incarceration or even death to one that leads toward a successful future? Maybe even a college degree and a decent job?

I have to pin this because it made me laugh. It also made me sad. Number 1 is the only real reason I need (w all need a family). Number 2 is a simple benefit. 3-5 are just there to show us how silly it is to think we can't love a child that needs love because they have lived too long....: All that being said, there are still plenty of teens (who people tend to ignore because they want babies and toddlers) who are good kids with difficult pasts that just need adults in their lives whom they can trust and be loved by. These are good kids. They just need people in their lives who can really help them succeed.

 

 

 

 

Check out your local Heart Gallery to learn more about the teens in the US who are waiting for their forever family. Will you answer their cries?

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The Stupid Things People Ask and Say

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We don’t have a placement yet, but in this process of learning how to become parents, we’ve come across some really ridiculous questions and statements. Some are just downright insulting and some stem from lack of education on the subject. Either way, we thought this topic deserved its own post.

During training, we were warned that we’d come across certain comments and questions that might bother us or put us in a precarious position in front of our kids. We just never thought they’d really happen. Some people were well meaning in their statements, but nonetheless, the statements still hurt. So I, Shauna, one of the authors of this blog, began thinking about the things that people would never say to a pregnant woman or expecting couple that they say all of the time to people hoping to become parents through fostering or adoption.

Stupid Question #1                 Image result for question mark

Why do you think there are so many bad foster families out there?

Gee, I don’t know. Maybe you think there are so many bad foster families out there because those are the only ones you hear about. I personally know a lot of really amazing foster/ adoptive families whose children turned out just fine thank you. I could ask a similar question: why do you think there are so many bad parents out there?

Stupid Question #2

Which ones are yours?

What do you mean, which ones are mine? They are all mine, meaning, I’m currently raising and taking care of all of them. Who gives a rat’s tail which ones I personally birthed and which ones I didn’t?! Does it really matter at the end of the day? Just so you know, foster kids don’t like being distinguished as different or “other.” Asking that question in front of them just reminds them that their first experience with family was a broken one.

Stupid Question #3

Are you sure you want to do that? (Referring to choosing to foster children over the age of one).

Would you ask a pregnant woman if she was sure she made the right choice? No! Of course not! So why are you asking me if I’m sure I want to become a parent through the foster system?

Related imageStupid Statement #1

Kids cost a lot of money. 

Oh really? I thought they were free. Again, you wouldn’t say that to a pregnant woman. Of course kids cost a lot of money. Don’t you think people choosing to become parents through fostering/ adoption haven’t considered that? Not to mention, foster/ adoptive parent’s finances have been scrutinized for stability factors by the county, state, and federal government, not to mention any private agencies they used during the process.

Stupid Statement #2

You have no parenting experience.

Hmm. Neither do half a million new biological parents. They, however, weren’t required to go through hours and hours of extensive training, pass federal background checks/ fingerprinting, get physicals and have a doctor sign a form deeming them healthy enough for parental duty, tolerate extremely invasive interviews from complete strangers, or have an inspector study their home for safety violations. Mind you, perhaps if all biological parents were required to go through the same training/ interviews, etc., that foster parents have to go through, we wouldn’t have need of a foster system at all.

Stupid Statement #3

Good thing you felt called into this life (referring to revealing infertility issues)

I felt called to foster/ adopt long before I ever found out about my infertility. In fact, I think I was 13-years-old when I first decided I wanted to adopt a child or children one day. The fact that you think my heart for adoption is a good thing because I’m infertile is actually a very hurtful comment and certainly doesn’t help me heal from the possibility of never having biological children. Are you suggesting that all infertile couples should therefore adopt? Knowing what I know about fostering/ adopting, it’s not for the faint of heart, or for people who have infertility baggage they haven’t healed from yet. Infertility was never a reason for us to foster/ adopt. We just happen to have that specific heart for opening up our home to children in need, regardless of our ability to conceive.

There are other questions and statements that feel like lemon juice on a wound, and we might write about them one day. These were just the top three questions and statements that we’ve come across, more often than not, and felt they merited some attention. If you know someone going through the foster/ adopt process, please educate yourself and don’t say these things around them. They will most certainly not appreciate it, even if you are well-meaning.

Welcome to The Fostered Child!

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Thanks for stopping by! This brand new blog came about during one couple’s humble journey through the fostering and adoption process. It wasn’t long before lack of resources, common knowledge about the subject, or people to connect to became evident, so this blog seeks to solve that problem! We’ll be posting about things like: myths about the foster system, domestic vs. international adoption, baby vs. child adoption, becoming foster parents, parenting resources and educational materials, commonly asked questions, how to get the process started once you’ve decided to become a foster/ adoptive parent, and so much more.

We don’t claim to be experts but can offer the “parent” side of things and hope that you will benefit from what we’ve learned and are still learning as we continue down this journey.

Right now, there’s not much posted (we just got this up and running!) so please check back on a weekly basis to see what we’ve added.

Have a wonderful day!