Imagine telling your children at the age of 21 that they must leave the family home and no longer have any financial or emotional support, and are left to fend for themselves until the end of time.
This is a reality for many foster teens in our Canadian system. In some cases the system has failed them. Some of these teens have been in care since the age of 5 or 6 years old. The court process takes too long, or the situation has changed more than they can remember. For whatever reason, we have thousands and thousands of kids across Canada that will just age out of the system, and we need to make change immediately.
Recently I was looking at a local Children’s Aid Society’s website. There was a 17 year old male who found the passion for basketball. He was planning to further his education in post secondary, but was missing a very big piece of the puzzle. He didn’t have a forever home. He didn’t have that place to go home to for Christmas break, or a place to go on a random weekend. He was just going to age out and feel like he had nothing.
A lot of teens come with baggage so to speak. Some people might consider them broken and not “fixable”. All children come with a past. You don’t know what their future holds for them. I look for potential. All kids have potential.
We’ve taken teenagers for respites. This is an approved home that a child can come to for the weekend to maybe give their foster family a break, maybe the child needs a break, or maybe the regular foster family is headed for a vacation. You might question why they don’t take the kids in care, and unfortunately that’s usually not a possibility due to the rules of a child being in care.
I’ve had some great and not so great experiences with having a teenager in our home. I’ve made friends with our local police force, I’ve stayed awake to try and make sure my teen stays at our house and doesn’t take off, and I’ve even gone for a good ol’ fashioned car ride across town trying to find them, as they didn’t make it home in time for their curfews. All these things have happened but I’ve personally made some great connections. I have completely attached myself to some teens. I think about them everyday and hope that they know that I would be there for them anytime, any day. We’ve also had some teens that we just didn’t make the connection. There have been some that I would have adopted if they wanted to be adopted. In the future, we will likely really consider adopting a teen once our children are a little older.
Teenagers tend to have so much build up and they usually have lost trust in us, the adults. There are things that we take for granted. Some teens haven’t had the opportunity to experience a normal life with a normal family long term. Some teens may feel that they have to prove themselves because they already have the “stigma” of being one of those bad foster care kids.
Teenagers need stability and love. They need someone they can trust and go to. They need the Family effect. A lot of teens in foster care have a higher chance of not taking post secondary education, there is a higher pregnancy rate and even a higher chance of doing jail time. All of this could be avoided if our system was stronger, and if we had more families willing to adopt older children and give them a place to call home.
I’ve provided a link to a fantastic video that will really help simplify the system and share the story of The Family Effect.