By Briana Jenczyk

fosterIn my life and professional experience so far, the biggest stigma around foster care is about teenagers. Teenagers are thought of as more “challenging.” They’re more likely to break the rules and be a threat to others, right? While I could never deny that some teenagers might be more difficult to parent, most of the time all they want is a family where they know they are safe and well cared for. For teenagers, it often takes more time to break through their walls, typically because of a long history of abuse, neglect or lack of safe and stable relationships. Because I am in a case management role, I have the honor and privilege to really get to know children and teenagers in the foster care system. This week, I had the opportunity to sit down with one of the teenagers on my case load and talk to her about foster care from her perspective. My interview with her is written here:

  • What is one thing you want people to know about foster care?
    • When you’re in foster care, you always have someone to love you.
  • What is the hardest thing about being in foster care?
    • Not being able to see my “real family” as much
  • What is the “best” thing about being in foster care?
    • Foster parents travel a lot, so getting to see new places with them.
  • How do you want people to treat you in foster care?
    • I want people to treat me like a normal person.
  • How does it feel when people pity you or feel sorry for you because you’re in foster care?
    • I feel smaller when people treat me that way.
  • Is it difficult to you to have both your biological family and your foster family involved in taking care of you?
    • It’s not difficult to have two [sets of] parents, but the rules are different in my foster home.
  • How does your foster family treat you differently?
    • They give me independence and don’t make me feel smaller or younger than I am.
  • What is one thing you’ve learned in foster care?
    • People make mistakes.
  • How do you respond when people make mistakes?
    • I expect them to learn from mistakes and do better.
  • Do you think it’ll be difficult when you go back into your mom’s care?
    • I don’t think it’ll be hard to transition back to my mom.
  • If you could only tell your mom one thing about your experience in your foster home, what would you tell her?
    • I would tell my mom that I’m safe.
  • How would foster care be different if you had to be separated from your brother?
    • It would be very difficult if I couldn’t be with my brother. It’s better to have him here.
  • If you talked to someone about foster care, how would you explain it to them?
    • I would tell them that foster care is for when you can’t live with your parents; it’s like having substitute parents while your parents are getting better.
  • How do you feel about having a case manager who has to come and see you multiple times a month?
    • It doesn’t bother me to see you [case manager], because you’re really nice and I don’t think anyone could be nicer.
  • Since you knew your foster parents before you came into their home a year ago, do you think it would feel different if you had to move in with foster parents who were strangers to you?
    • It wouldn’t feel different with strangers, I feel like it would be an easy transition. They make the time in foster care easy and fun.
  • How do you feel about your foster parents when they make decisions for you?
    • I trust my foster parents.
  • How do you feel when you miss mom the most?
    • I get a little angry because of what she did, but then I calm myself down by saying that she’s fixing things and doing the best she can to fix it from where she is.
  • What about when you feel the best in foster care?
    • I feel happy, but deep down I feel kind of sad because of the reason we’re here in foster care.
  • Do you think you will maintain a relationship with your foster family and their biological children when you move on or become an adult?
    • I will keep in touch and still be friends with them as an adult.
  • What do you want to be as an adult?
    • I want to go to Vanderbilt and become a doctor at the children’s hospital. If I can’t be a doctor, I would be a vet because I like helping people and animals.

The difference maker for this teenager is that she has committed, loving, Christian people surrounding her. Between her foster parents, social workers, biological family and friends, this teenager is surrounded by people who believe in her and treat her with respect. Like every other child in foster care, she is a person of worth and value. The needs of teenagers in care are not complicated, but it does take unconditional love and time to help them in this phase of life. Unfortunately, there are many other children and adolescents in foster care who need Christian families to step in make a difference in their lives. If you’d like to learn more about fostering through AGAPE, please email fostercare@agapenashville.org.

 

Jun 20, 2019