By Jill Rippy
Teens tend to be the most feared population of foster children. Without a doubt, the majority of the calls and messages I receive from potential foster parents are from those wishing to foster ages 0 to 5. When I ask why they prefer that age group, I typically hear the desire to follow birth order or they are simply afraid of the risk older children pose. Frankly, the response is rooted in fear.
Let’s just be 100% clear. The most violent children in foster care are not teens…they are toddlers.
Laugh. It makes me laugh too.
No, these toddlers are not going to go all Chucky on you. They are just babies in big bodies trying to communicate through naughtiness.
The reality is that when speaking about the majority of ANY group of children, regardless of foster care, the most violent age group is toddlers. Sure, they can’t do as much damage as big kids, but in the sheer volume of incidents & lack of impulse control, toddlers take the prize for hitting, kicking, biting, pushing and scratching.
Speaking from the experience of fostering many teenagers, and now my experience working with many foster children professionally, it is relatively rare to see violence toward a foster family at the hands of a foster teen. Does it happen? Yes. However, the incidents are pretty few and far between with the vast majority of youth in care.
Of the incidents I’ve personally been alerted to, when a foster teen hits a foster parent, it’s generally a situation where the foster parent is returning rage with rage rather than modeling the practice of walking away and letting the youth cool down. The truth of the matter is, if an adult was raging at me and they had me cornered, I would probably get violent too. I imagine you might react the same.
Here’s my 100% honest, non-inflated truth. Teenagers are among some of our easiest children to foster. Hollywood has done such a disservice to our teens in foster care. After all, if we believed the Hollywood stigmas of foster parents, we would find they are all money grubbing, physical abusing, child-molesting monsters. It’s a good thing we don’t listen to Hollywood to find our truth.
The MAJORITY of teenagers in foster care:
-are not on probation
-are not violent
-are not looking for opportunities to sexually abuse other children
-are not rapists
-are not criminals
-have done nothing to land themselves in foster care
-need someone to believe in them
-need people to help them make sense of their trauma
-deserve to have a happy remainder of their childhood
-just want someone to listen
-need strong relationships to help them heal
-deserve to be happy, healthy and thriving
The MAJORITY of children in foster care are there because of a lack of safety as a result of their parents’ choices…not theirs.
Regardless of your age preferences when fostering, let’s be fair and engage in honest conversation without stigmas.
Quite frankly, teens in foster care are pretty incredible.
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