Teens in the foster care system are among the least likely find a home. Nearly 5,000 young adults in California “age out” of the foster care system each year, many without ever having known a stable home. Fostering a teen may not be your first choice, but the rewards in doing so can last a lifetime.
For many families, fostering a teen may seem like too little, too late. What possible benefit could providing a stable home be when a teen is going to become an adult in a matter of a year or two? And from the family’s perspective, what’s the point of bringing a foster child into their home if it’s only for a short time? Some families hesitate to foster teens because of uncertainty around their history or potential behaviors.
For families who have fostered teens, the answer comes down to impact. The right family can provide guidance and discipline and direction for a teen who is struggling. We’ve all had those special people in our lives, the ones who find us at just the right time and help us navigate our most difficult times. Sometimes it’s a teacher or a coach. You have the potential to become that person in the life of a teen in foster care.
“No one can change what has happened to them,” says Linda Gutierrez, an Aspiranet social worker and former foster parent in Fresno. “But knowing that someone is there for them, it gives them hope. No matter how long they’ve waited.”
Teens in foster care have a unique capacity for resilience. Many have spent their lives living with uncertainty. By showing them that you care and that you’re not going to abandon them, they flourish in front of your eyes. A teen who may have been on the wrong path will look to you as their compass.
“The opportunity to turn a young person’s life around is something that happens all the time,” says Jeannie Imelio, Chief Operating Officer with Aspiranet. “Sometimes it’s a child’s last chance for direction.”
Raising a teen takes patience, whether it’s your own child or a foster child, but the rewards are plentiful. It’s not uncommon for former foster teens to maintain a relationship with their foster families. The impact a foster family has on a teen can extend for life. For many foster families, the relationship they’ve built spans generations. When these former foster children become adults and have families of their own, they often look to the relationship their final foster family created as a model.
To learn more about how you can help teens in your community, visit aspiranet.org/foster-adopt or call 877.380.4376.