Foster carer encourages others to give teenagers a chance: “They just need nurture, patience and tolerance”
Susan, 65, and her husband Brian, 60, started their fostering journey back in the nineties with their local county council and took in a four-year-old boy while they were both working in the services.
Shortly after, they were posted to Cyprus. They had to press pause on their fostering journey until they were retired, and decided to take it up again once they were settled in their forever home.
When Susan and her husband fostered the first young boy, they saw just how powerful love, care, and attention can be for a child. Susan recalled: “I had raised three happy and smiling children so when this little four-year-old walked into our home with no sense of happiness or knowing how to play, I was shocked. But in just nine months, he had a total turnaround. The first time he laughed, the first time he smiled, it was a joy!”
That first experience of making a difference to a child’s life stayed with them for years and when the couple moved back to the UK in 2014, they immediately wanted to pick up fostering again. Susan said: “I arrived one day and the following day I made a call to FCA Scotland. It was immediate”.
Susan mainly fosters teenagers because she believes that they get left behind in the care system but need just as much support, if not more, as younger children. She said: “They (teenagers) come across as quite difficult and challenging and people would rather not take them on. But beneath that exterior that they present, they just need nurture, patience and tolerance.
“If you can over look all the brashness and bravado, you can see exactly just how vulnerable they really are”.
Although people think that fostering teenagers is too challenging, Susan believes that at the end of the day, they are children and deserve the same love and care that younger children do.
“I do believe there is a difference between fostering teenagers and younger children, but then the basic foundation of fostering is very similar across the ages. They all need to feel secure, they all need nurturing and they all need love, basically, and they need you to show that you care, despite whatever they present. They need you to show them as a person, they are worthwhile,” she said.
Susan recognises that dealing with teenagers can seem like a challenge: “It is harder because they (teenagers) tend to have been pushed away by the people that were there to nurture them and they feel a lot of resentment and the more they get closer to you, the more they push you back”.
However, Susan emphasises the importance of showing unconditional love and support to foster children. She said: “It has to be unconditional. Once they understand that, there's nothing they will do that will stop you caring for them, fundamentally, they do tend to show you a glimmer of hope and you hold on to that.
“It’s not easy, but it's doable. I think patience, first and foremost, and a good sense of humour is essential. And to be able to laugh at yourself, laugh with them. Laughter always does make it a bit easier”.
Susan and her husband are grateful to have the support from FCA Scotland throughout their fostering experience with the agency. Susan said: “We are very grateful for the way our social worker has supported us, we couldn’t have come this far without her support. The whole team at FCA Scotland are brilliant and have been very supportive”.
Susan urges anyone who wants to take up fostering but hasn’t taken the plunge yet to “just do it.” She said: “The children are all very different and whatever anybody can offer them is better than not having the chance to experience a family life.
“At the end of the day, you just have to challenge yourself. Come out of your comfort zone. It is very rewarding once you step out of that and think, well, yeah, I'll give it a go”.
Susan and her husband believe that there needs to be more awareness around fostering teenagers, especially those who come from minorities and diverse backgrounds. Susan said: “There needs to be focus on broadening fostering in all walks of life and towards all ethnicities and obviously racial divides, because a lot of these children really need to experience diversity because we live in a diverse world”.
For more information about fostering with FCA Scotland , please visit Foster Care Associates Scotland - Change that lasts a lifetime (fcascotland.co.uk)
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