I first went into foster care aged 13, a week or so after Christmas. I had been ‘sofa surfing’ with different friends for months before, worried about social services becoming involved.

Eventually, Social Services did become involved. I was told by the assessment social worker that they were struggling to find any placements, due to me being in the ‘older’ age category; to the extent that they had to search six different counties to find me a foster carer.

Young teens are incredibly vulnerable and can be overlooked. It’s a great shame as they have so much to offer.

I found it very difficult to not just feel completely hopeless; I was old enough to understand what was happening but still too young to have any control over it – a total state of limbo.
After several weeks of searching, a placement was found on the Somerset Levels, coinciding with the infamous flooding. The couple provided a safe household, but I felt like things were just being imposed on me. I wasn’t included in much of the daily decision making and it soon became clear that they had preference for children in the younger age category; this is an on-going issue within the care system and results in a massive lack in housing.
I became extremely paranoid of appearing ‘different’ to my peers at school. I stood out due to having to arrive by taxi and parents evening became the most daunting time of all.

By the time it came to starting GCSEs, I decided the only way I could have any real control over what was happening was through education -I somehow turned everything that had happened into a driving force. After less than a year, I moved placements. The foster carers were starting to go on holiday so frequently, that I found myself never properly unpacking between respite placements. These were hours away from my school, with no consistency, it was very tough with mock exams rapidly approaching.

Often in foster care, it’s little things that make really positive impacts

I ended up moving in with one of my respite providers on a permanent basis. I spent the remainder of my time at school living at this placement. The couple had grandchildren that I really got on with and I definitely felt a sense of belonging in my time living there. Like any other 16 year old about to finish school, I was really excited about the extra-long summer holidays. The foster carers had spoken to me about plans to celebrate, having finished all the exams.
This all came crumbling down when I finished the final exam and I came home to find out I had a week to move out. The foster carer’s lack of transparency and honesty made it very hurtful, as they’d known for months previously it also clouded over all the good times and made me question to what extent things were ‘white lies’.

It probably wasn’t until I was lodging with a ‘Stepping Stones’ provider that I finally found stability. Despite the provider being a single person rather than a couple, she was incredibly caring, respectful and down-to-earth and best of all, she would never promise to have every solution in the bag, but you could tell she generally had your best interests at heart.

Often in foster care, it’s little things that make really positive impacts. For me, the fact that she allowed me to decorate my bedroom restored my trust that she wanted me there on an actual real permanent basis to complete my A-Levels. It was at this point that I finally felt like the carer was talking to me as a real individual rather than a mere child!
The carer herself came to England under refugee status as a young adult and although these were very contrasting circumstances, I and another care-leaver that lived with us could tell she had real empathy and passion for her vocation. She was a really good role model, emphasising that if you’re determined enough, you can make it; even if nothing else seems to be running in your favour.

Now, I’ve managed to start a degree apprenticeship in the area and I have moved on to semi-supported accommodation with the hope to rent a house of my own in the near future. Happy days!
What do I think the three most important traits that make a ‘good ‘foster carer?
Consistency, Honesty and Respect. They are the qualities that have influenced me in contrasting ways over the years. Although my experience of being in the care system has been very challenging at times I hope sharing this insight will help future foster carers have a greater understanding of what makes a ‘good’ foster carer. If you are thinking of fostering, consider those heading into their teen years that desperately need guidance. You could make so much difference!

*Stepping stones carers are people who help young people who are leaving care, make the step into independent adulthood

Young teens are incredibly vulnerable and can be overlooked. It’s a great shame as they have so much to offer.

We urgently need more foster carers to look after children and teenagers of all ages and ‘stepping carers’ to support young people who need a safe haven while they study or try to start a career.

If you would love to make a real difference to someone’s life – call us now on 0800 587 9900 or fill in our simple contact form

We have a great offer available including support. training, progression scheme and extra rewards.

For more info on Stepping Stones Carers and the work they do click here

To hear from carers who foster teenagers watch this video here

*Not her real name