by Stephanie Purvis
I have fostered teens since August 2018. It has been an amazing journey. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Raising kids is the hardest thing you will ever do, then add trauma on top of that.
Here is something I posted on Facebook a couple years ago:
I don't understand why people are so afraid of foster kids. They are good kids! I have had people ask me so many crazy questions. They just don't understand why I would let a stranger's child live with me, especially teenagers. Well, teenagers need someone to love and help them prepare for adulthood. They are just like EVERY other kid. Anyone that has actually met my kids know they are great! They may drive me up the wall sometimes (like ALL kids do to their parents) but I wouldn't trade them for anything!
Let me just tell you about my kids:
My 12-year-old daughter saw a woman at church crying that she had never seen before and walked right up to her and gave her a hug. She is one of the most loving and sensitive people I have ever met. She might be addicted to hugs and I'm not complaining. On top of being incredibly caring she is also funny... she might be a professional comedian someday. She wants to get a degree in Zoology and work with big cats when she grows up.
My 16-year-old daughter saw a grandma at church having a hard time with her toddler granddaughter, she immediately got up and asked if she could take the girl and play with her in the kid room... she spent all of church playing with the girl to give the grandma a break. She is also one of the most loyal people I have ever met, she will defend you no matter who it is. You never have to guess where you stand with her, she lets you know often. She says I love you and good night before bed EVERY night, even if she is mad at me or her sister. She is always willing to help people. She keeps going back and forth about being a Nurse or Firefighter when she grows up.
My 18-year-old son was my very first foster kid. When they told me about him, I was terrified! I reluctantly decided to meet him, one of the best decisions I ever made was saying yes. He is the most amazing young man I have ever known (I might be biased). He is currently an Army Soldier! Even after he was no longer in my home he still writes, calls, and sees me as much as possible. After having him be my first foster, I was not afraid to say yes to the rest. I didn't just get him as my son but his mom as a friend.
All three of my kids are very close and there is no question that they are siblings and call each other as such.
So, are you still afraid of foster kids? If so, you can meet any or all of mine, and they will honestly answer your questions. Everyone should consider becoming a foster parent.
Now, in the last couple of years since writing that post, I have had more kids, adopted the 16-year-old, who is now 19. That 18-year-old boy will be 21 in July, he still calls and texts me almost every day even though he is stationed in Texas. That 12-year-old girl
did decide to go to another placement before I could adopt her, which was one of my hardest times as a foster parent. She still stays in touch though.
Fostering is not all sunshine and rainbows. Teens come with their own set of issues. They need someone to show them how to be an emotionally stable functioning adult. Most of them have severe self-esteem issues and need their electronics monitored. They need help learning how to respect themselves, especially the girls. They need a trusted adult to be a good example to them. Most of them have RAD too. They deserve love and guidance. They just want someone to actually care about them and their future. They want someone that will let them come home for the holidays. My oldest was only with me for 6 months but still comes here every Christmas.
My current 16-year-old placement, which we are moving toward adoption, is the second easiest kid I have ever had. She is very loving and kind. She would do anything for anyone. Just last night we were at my friend's house, she has little kids, and was overwhelmed that her house was a mess. My girl immediately went in and did her dishes for her. My friend asked what she was doing, and my girl says "helping". She is an angel 99% of the time. She has her own struggles that we are trying to overcome. Like most teens, yes, probably even your bios, she has dabbled with vaping. We are working on her self-esteem as well. She came to me straight from rehab. I have had a few teens that have had addictions or used drugs just sometimes. Some have admitted they started using weed and vaping as young as 8. My 16-year-old was one of them. She has struggled, she has relapsed on an overnight home visit, she is overcoming it and has been sober for almost 6 months. It is scary to think about taking a teen that could be an addict, drinks, and probably vapes. The girl that was 12 in the above story was suspended at age 9 and 12 for vaping at school.
Most foster teens are in group homes. It is so important for these kids to be in foster homes where they have a caring adult(s) to be role models to them. You need to have open and honest communication with them about the dangers of drugs, alcohol, vaping, and sex. They need someone they can trust to speak with about it all, they don't get that in a group home. Most of the time I feel that my kids are not even listening to me, then I hear them give their friends the same advice I gave them. Yes, teens are hard. They are also worth it! I have had a couple that I just couldn't give them the help they needed. There were times I was so frustrated that I wanted to give up. Some of them have so much trauma they throw fits like a toddler. Some that have gone so long without proper mental health care they hurt others or themselves. Some that steal and lie so much they believe their own lies. It is all trauma they need help with. The only thing that has kept me going is remembering all the good. Of my 20 teens, I have only had 4 that did stuff that was hard to forgive. So, when I am venting to friends and they ask why I keep doing it, I say "well, those are pretty good odds".
I have some I wish had stayed. I have a lot that I hear from every now and then. I have some I hear from regularly; they still ask for advice. Most importantly, they all know they will always be my kids and I am here if they need me. Foster teens deserve love, acceptance, and someone that will not give up on them. There have been times that were so hard, that even my 16-year-old told me to displace. I tell her "They deserve love too and I don't want to be another adult that gave up on them". I hope that everyone will consider teens. They aren't as scary as you think they are. They are like all other kids; they just want love, acceptance, and a safe place to call home
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