At Chrysalis Care, we have spoken many times of the numerous myths that surround fostering and most of them are fairly easy to explain and we can offer reassurance to potential foster carers – based upon our longstanding reputation supporting foster carers and providing nurturing families for children and young people.
One such myth that is less easy to mediate, is the assumption – and often fear – of fostering teenagers and that in every situation, it is a recipe for trouble, for inviting challenge and disruption. This is especially so with those young people who have experienced lots of disruption in their earlier lives and perhaps how the impact of these have led them to make some poor choices. Perhaps those poor choices have resulted in them being excluded from school, or of engaging in behaviour that is not productive, maybe even criminal.
All too often, people tend to look at the ‘outcomes’ at a point in time, rather than what led to those outcomes and indeed, what may lie ahead with the right influence, at the time when it is most needed. This is usually the case when it comes to teenagers, who are often regarded as adults, even when they are legally, psychologically and emotionally children. They are regarded with fear, rather than compassion and with very little consideration for their vulnerability, so deeply hidden beneath their protective armour.
More recently, these vulnerabilities have been referred to as ACEs – Adverse Childhood Experiences – and the impact of these are finally beginning to be understood, not just by professionals but by the general public. A focus upon ACEs is an opportunity to tune into the child within the teenager and to empathise with how their trajectory has been thrown off course. It can help us to take a trauma-informed approach and to see the person behind the behaviour, acknowledging their identity as people.
Most of us simply want to be understood and accepted unconditionally, even if our behaviour conveys a different message – maybe that we don’t care, or that we are ok alone, or that we do not need anyone else. Most of us, even if we haven’t experienced many adverse childhood experiences, can identify with this mindset at certain points in our lives and with some reflection, we can understand that this is usually a method we use to protect ourselves, to preserve ourselves even.
We encourage our foster carers to develop their empathy, through reflective supervision and through training related to a range of aspects, such as ‘understanding adolescence’, ‘trauma-informed approaches’, ‘attachment and loss’, ‘managing behaviour’, etc. Afterall, the way to create positive futures is to embrace being part of the solution, to seek a deeper meaning and to be part of a much-needed narrative-change.
It’s a narrative where young people are not seen as the enemy, not as a product of society’s ills but as future leaders, better positioned to make a contribution to the world, not just in spite of their experiences but also because of them. Could you help us to foster a new narrative?
For further information and an informal discussion then please CONTACT US