Today’s blog post comes from Councillor Helen Godwin, Cabinet Member for Women, Children and Young People, and Lead Member for Children’s Services.
Earlier this month we launched a new campaign calling for Bristol residents to foster young people – to help them reach their potential.
Teenagers in particular are in need of adults – of all ages and from all backgrounds – who may be able to help them through their already difficult years, by providing a safe, secure home and family life for them.
Childhood should be a fantastic time for young people when they explore their passions, form friendships and learn. But for many young people adolescence can be much harder because of their home circumstances and it is those children, young teenagers and almost-adult teens too, who need our support the most.
Teenagers in foster care are of course as diverse as the city we live in, just as you, prospective carers, are. You can foster if you rent your home or own your home, earn in a primary job elsewhere, or choose to foster exclusively. Fostering is for residents with their own passions, people with their own family commitments, for students and same-sex couples and low-income homes, too.
There also are many misconceptions about fostering, especially teenagers, which could leave them without the support of a loving home, care and attention. But fostered teenagers are just like any other teenagers. They might try to push the boundaries and make some mistakes – just like many of us did in the past – but that shouldn’t mean they don’t get our support.
Anne, a Bristol foster carer looking after teenagers, said: “We haven’t got children of our own and we were worried that we would find it difficult to foster teenagers. The reality was very different – after all, we were all teenagers once so, as foster carers, we could relate to some of their behaviours and the situations they were experiencing. Naturally, as a foster carer, you will have your ups and downs but what matters more is the rewards this experience brings you.”
I know becoming a foster carer is a big commitment. It’s scary and unknown. You probably have endless questions. What will my life look like with someone else in my home? What impact will fostering have on my family? What about work? It’s natural. And it won’t always be easy. But the rewards and the difference you can make to someone’s life will be enormous.
Because if you were experiencing difficulties, if you wanted nothing more than a safe and secure home, would you have wanted adults to take a chance on you when you were a teenager? Yes, there are differences between then and now: mobile phones instead of the family landline; TikTok instead of handwritten notes and playground gossip. Think of the past you and how grateful you’d have felt to have an adult to talk to. That’s all we ask of you. To consider if you can give a young person the confidence and life experience to grow into a healthy, happy and secure young adult with good future prospects.
We asked Martyna, a young care leaver, what she thought. She said: “I would encourage as many people as possible to become foster carers because they make the all the difference in helping young people who might not get the help otherwise.”
She added: “I went into care when I was 15 years old. I have had a few foster placements and I have learnt a lot from every family I stayed with. I have been with my current foster family for seven years. The most important thing they did for me was believing in me, believing that I can achieve what I want and that I will do well. Thanks to their support, I started to believe it too. I’m now a trainee social worker finishing my degree and I hope to be able to help others. The stability I have had in my current home was really important and helped me get to where I am today.”
If you are interested in becoming a foster carer, please visit www.bristol.gov.uk/foster or speak to one of our team members on 0117 353 4200 for an informal chat. We will answer all your questions and explain what it’s like to be a foster carer.