On a journey together – fostering teenagers

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When Walt became a foster carer in 2016 for Islington Fostering, fostering had been playing on his mind for quite some time. However, he had always worried that he wouldn't be approved as a carer because he is part of the LGBTQ+ community, doesn’t own a house and doesn’t have children of his own. Did you know that none of this matters? Walt fortunately found out and is now looking after teenagers. Here he tells us what makes fostering so special.

For a long time I had this idea that I would not stand a chance in being accepted as a foster carer. But after coming through a personal crisis, I decided to not allow any fears to hold me back anymore.’ Walt started looking into fostering more closely and realised your background doesn’t matter, as long as you’re able to provide a young person with a safe and loving home. He went on to do exactly that for teenagers in care.

Fostering has been, and continues to be, quite a journey. It has enabled me to improve myself as a person every day and allows me to reflect and reach back into my history. As an LGBTQ foster carer you have so much to bring to the table. Your views, opinions, experiences and feelings will contribute to help the young person in your care grow into a wonderful human being.

Fostering has taught me that my best days are not my yesterdays and that every day is a gift and a miracle. Of course it also comes with challenges. For me, this means being open enough to reflect and make changes. However, in the end, they will always be for the better.

When the door shuts the adventure begins

After 12 months of being assessed, attending many training courses and lots of support groups to meet experienced foster carers to listen to their experiences, I felt confident I was prepared for the first young person to come to live with me. And although I was as prepared as I could be, nothing can prepare you for that moment when a young person is dropped off at your home and the door shuts.

Everything I learned on the training courses had been a very useful resource but saying ‘I have been trained on trauma, I attended a course on gangs, I read a book about challenging behaviour’ means nothing in that moment, until you as a foster carer reach back into your history and connect with yourself as person. This will allow you to build a relationship with the young person. And that is what it is all about.

Living with teenagers

When a teenager comes into care it is at a time when they are developing their own identity. It is a very important process and a time of self-discovery. If this time is disrupted by any additional stress or events that make these wonderful young people feel in danger, they will worry about who they can trust to keep them safe. To then witness a teenager that is in your care show you that they trust you, that they are opening up to you and connect with you is the most rewarding feeling ever - and the biggest compliment anyone could ever give me.

I think the most important thing you can give a young person to take along on their journey is that there is a ‘we’, no matter what. ‘We’ will get through this, ‘we’ are in this together, and ‘we’ will always be.

Fostering during corona

The coronavirus crisis is the biggest challenge we have ever experienced. But luckily, my young person and I have a strong relationship. Neither of us is looking at this as opposition, this is an opportunity. We are using this time to grow and to learn during the crisis. We know that together, we will get through this and our relationship will come out stronger. Plus, the pandemic will help me become a better foster carer. Not only for the young person in my care now but also for all the young people I will foster in the future.

Message to prospective carers

Fostering enables me to incorporate things that I have learnt from my parents into my parenting. Baking with the young person I care for or showing them new D.I.Y. skills makes me feel as if I am getting to spend time with my parents. Yes, opening your home and heart to someone is not to be taken lightly. It is one of the biggest decisions I have ever made, but it was also one of the best ones.