Kelly and her family foster teenagers and young children

My name is Kelly. With my husband and three sons I’ve been fostering teenagers and young children for the last eight years.
My mum and dad were foster carers from when I was about 17 years old. They fostered children of all ages, but I found that the teenagers would confide in me as I was more on their level. I’d explain to them that I’d have to tell my mum and dad if anything serious was happening. I knew from then on that fostering was what I wanted to do in the future.

I have three teenage children of my own and they have told me they’d like to foster too when they’re older. Now and again they have to write letters for social services as part of the process, and they have written the loveliest things about how they’re proud of themselves for what we do.  My foster children are classed to me as my own children – we have meals together and days out, and we enjoy visiting our caravan in Wales. To me, I see it as fostering as a whole family, not just as myself and my partner.

I currently foster a 16-year-old girl and her 10-month-old son. The girl was 10 weeks pregnant when she came to me, and since then I have watched her turn her life around. We talked a lot about her past and what she was going through, and she really opened up to me throughout her pregnancy. I was present at her son’s birth and he calls me ‘nan’ – it’s lovely.

Before she lived with me the girl had been running away from home and was possibly moving out of the area, but I spoke to social services and explained that I could help her. Today she’s a really sensible girl, and she has always been a great mum to her little boy. On top of that, she’s doing well at school and has found her own voice. I think it’s important I let her see her friends regularly because she is still technically a child herself. She’s a different person now with more confidence, and being listened to has really changed her life.

I think that fostering teenagers is often seen as daunting. Potential foster carers may feel that teenagers will be naughty or difficult, but I don’t see it in a negative way. I think that’s what we get into fostering for – to help young people – and I know first-hand how rewarding it is to be someone who makes that difference to a child’s life. It often means becoming their counsellor and therapist as they do all have their problems, but it’s so worthwhile to help them get through their experiences.

Also teenagers will always remember you and the help you have given them when they become adults. That means a lot.
Letting teenagers into your home helps them to understand what it’s like to be in a loving family. The teenage years can be difficult enough as it is for young people, and those in foster care need to be shown a positive family experience to see how it can help them. As a foster carer myself, I think fostering teenagers is even more rewarding. Teenagers need as much love, care and protection as the little ones do.

Children always love their mum and dad. No matter what has happened. I think it’s important for foster carers to be positive about a child’s parents for everyone’s best interests.  I also think it’s important for the children to keep their roots and see their siblings as much as they can. Some of the people I have taken care of in the past are now parents themselves and they still come to visit us regularly, seeing us as a part of their own family. It’s a really special thing to have.