See what our foster carers say
Calderdale residents Janet and Bob share their story, explaining what it's like to foster teenagers.
For Janet and Bob, fostering teenagers has given them some of “the most rewarding experiences” of their lives.
"Even just the little things, like bringing a smile to a teenager’s face by sitting down for a meal together around a table for the first time in their life. It’s impossible not to enjoy those moments and be affected by them", says Bob.
Janet and Bob started fostering over 20 years ago. At first they cared for babies and young children, but in the early 1990s, a Calderdale Council advert asking for people to care for young offenders changed their lives.
Since then, they have exclusively fostered teenagers, some of whom are young offenders who are remanded by the courts.
Janet, who chose to become a full-time foster carer, reminisces about the first teenager the couple took in to their care.
"He was 15 years old and had previously been in a Young Offenders Institution. We wanted to give him a chance, a bit of stability."
"We pushed his offences to the back of our minds. To us, he was an ordinary boy. We talked to him and, most importantly, we listened to him. That’s what makes the difference. All his problems and worries came flooding out. He trusted us."
Talking, listening and not prejudging helped the couple and the teenager to transform his life, and he stopped his offending behaviour.
There have since been many more success stories for Janet and Bob and the teenagers in their care.
They say that seeing the teenagers change and achieve makes it all worthwhile.
Bob recounts one of the couple’s most memorable experiences. When one teenage girl first went to live with them, she was timid and full of fears. Years later, when they were walking down the street in town, a young woman called them over. She was confident, smartly dressed and told them how she was succeeding in life and had settled down with her own child and husband. She was the girl they had fostered. The transformation was remarkable.
"But I’m not going to lie; they haven’t all been success stories. And it’s not always easy," says Bob.
But support from Calderdale Council is always there.
"We get constant support and advice from individual link workers in the Council’s fostering team, and they’re great at responding to any questions we ask – from the simplest queries to the more challenging issues. They always go the extra mile to help us and the teenagers in care."
"We also go on lots of training courses provided by the Council. Even though we’ve been fostering for over 20 years, it’s a constant learning experience.
Janet adds,"For those teenagers who don’t respond well to foster care and don’t do the right things to move forward in life, there are lots of other professionals who will get involved and help."
Janet and Bob worry that teenagers are the ‘forgotten’ ones when it comes to foster care.
"People often associate fostering with babies and young children. And unfortunately there is a stereotype of teenagers that gives many people a negative impression. But when teenagers come in to our home, they’re just ordinary kids with dreams, personalities and feelings," assures Bob.
Janet adds: “More often than not, all they need is a bit of structure in their lives. They need and want boundaries, which they might never have had at home. For example, we give them times for going to bed and getting up."
"But at the same time, we have to be flexible and let them have their own lives. It’s about compromise, not confrontation. We tell them what we expect of them, but in return, we always ask “What do you expect of us?” They respect us for it. It makes our lives easier too!"
So what would Janet say to anyone interested in fostering teenagers?
"Having done this for over 20 years speaks for itself. I chose this as my full-time career because it gives me something to get my teeth into. It’s challenging but so rewarding. Every day is different and the adrenaline is constantly pumping."
"Apart from financial reward, the best thing is when the teenagers get back in touch and tell you of their successes and achievements."
People might have their own children and be worried about how fostering would affect them, but Janet and Bob have two daughters of their own, and when they lived at home they generally got on well with the fostered teenagers.
Bob says he would definitely encourage anyone who is interested in fostering teenagers to find out more.
"Please think about what you, and most importantly, the teenagers in care, could get out of it. Teenagers can really achieve . . . we just need to give them a chance."
Jenny* from Calderdale went into foster care when she was at primary school. She is now in her early 20s and studying to become a teacher. She says:
“Being fostered has opened up so many doors for me – opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I’ve been successful in my education and now I’m one step closer to my dream of being a teacher.
“I lived with my foster carers for about seven years. We have a great relationship and I still see them now. They’re the first people I go to if I need advice – they’re always there for me. They treat me as their daughter and I see them as my parents. I’m so grateful to them. They gave me stability when I needed it most, which meant I could focus on my education and work in part-time jobs. They gave me a childhood, encouraged me to join out-of-school clubs, built my confidence and taught me respect.
“To anyone thinking of becoming a foster carer, I would say that not only could you help a young person grow into a mature adult; you could also have one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
“To people being fostered, I know it can be hard when you’re young, but fostering can open up many new opportunities and experiences. It helped shape who I am today, and I know I can succeed in life.”
*Name has been changed.
Foster carers charter
Our foster carers are so important to us and you could be too. Not only do we provide individual support to you and your family, you'll receive support advice, guidance and direction from other foster carers who foster with us. Our foster carers charter shows our promise to you. Find out more how you can join our network and help make a difference to the lives of children and young people in Calderdale.