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We had the privilege of chatting to FFP Foster Parents Katie and Tyler about why fostering older children is so rewarding, and how being a ‘younger’ foster parent can be beneficial to the young people in their care. The average age of a foster parent in the UK is 58, and Katie and Tyler detail why being much younger can be advantageous in fostering…
Tyler explains ‘The advantage of being a younger age to the average foster parent is that we can relate a lot to them. I’ll play computer games with them. I’m still active in following all the sports, the stuff on TV… but not so much their music, their music is rubbish!’
‘I don’t know whether it’s our age, but we’re very open with all topics.’ Katie adds. ‘When you have teenage children living with you, things like puberty and sex are not a stigma, it’s an open topic of conversation. The topic of body changing or whatever doesn’t phase us. There are situations where they feel then can talk to us. It definitely has its advantages. Plus, we have the energy to run around with them, most of the time anyway!’.
Not afraid of breaking stereotypes, Katie and Tyler were really keen to foster teenage children. ‘When we were thinking about fostering, we didn’t initially have an idea of what we wanted from a foster child. We later realised that it’s us fitting into their lives, not the other way around. With our lifestyle, the house that we have, we felt that older children would get the best from it. Fostering teenagers isn’t the popular choice for whatever reason, but for us it works’ explains Katie.
Making the decision to foster is not an easy one, Katie explains ‘We found out we could not have children of our own. We looked at adoption but decided actually where we live and what we do would be beneficial for older children. Maybe we could help them.’. Tyler adds that ‘Surprisingly, I have had a lot of friends who have been adopted or fostered. If you’re thinking about fostering but you’re nervous or unsure, have a look at the case studies, do the courses, you can read stuff online, you get to see lots of examples.’ ‘It was the best decision we ever made’ Katie adds.
‘Unfortunately, there is a level of stigma around fostering, whereas you’ll hear the 1 in 50 horror stories, you don’t hear the 49 amazing achievements. People might be worried they don’t have the patience, understanding or ability to do it, but from someone who doesn’t have their own birth children, it came so naturally. I have asked a few people if they had ever thought about fostering, and the response is usually ‘no I just couldn’t do it’. But I think that’s due to a lack of understanding’ Katie surmises.
On working with Family Fostering Partners, Tyler says ‘It’s a big family group, a lot of people know each other; if you’re having a difficult time, we speak to each other and get advice. ‘How would you deal with this, or that?’ ‘Nobody is inaccessible’ adds Katie. ‘You can pick up the phone and speak to anybody should you need to; they are absolutely great. Working with Family Fostering Partners does not feel like work!’.
On being a foster parent, Katie says ‘It’s being a parent. You need patience, understanding, teamwork, leniency… and to pick your battles!’
‘And it’s being a caregiver’ adds Tyler, ‘but it’s so much more than that. Our lives revolve around them.’
When asked if they could do everything over, would they still choose to foster? The answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’.
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