Foster Teens: Handle With Care


Resilient – rebounding; recovering readily from adversity; returning to its original form after being stretched or bent


Do you recall your teen years with favor and joy?  For many of us adolescence was a challenging time.  Acne, raging hormones, peer pressure, and uncertainty plagued many of us.  Although we may have had the body of an adult, our teen brains had not fully developed.  Our views were shaped by other teens that were just as unsure of where they fit in the world as we were.  We were stuck in an unfamiliar place — no longer children but not yet adults.


Stability and positive discipline help teens thrive. Rules and boundaries offer safety and security.  Rules and boundaries also show teens that someone cares about their present and their future.  The obstacles in adolescence are often magnified for youth who are a part of the foster care system.  Think about it.  Who do you trust when you are unsure of how long you will live in the place where you are right now?  Who can exhibit patience and understanding to help you overcome abuse, abandonment, or apathy?  Who do you believe really “has your back” when you have lived in 3 different places in the last year and a half?


In some ways, adolescents are a lot like toddlers – they are awake at 2am, their bodies are changing, and they are discovering new ways to communicate and express their independence.  With that being said, older youth need additional support. We need to protect our teens from the pitfalls waiting to side track them and the past that has mistreated them.  We want to “keep it real” with our youth but offering rewards (not necessarily financial) is often more effective than scare tactics or threats of negative consequences.  Showing a teen a reason to stay in high school is much easier than trying to convince them not to drop out. They need to know that it’s OK to be original. We must help our youth understand that their worth isn’t determined by their family situation, their zip code or what they wear.


Adolescence can be a challenging time for both foster youth and the adults who support them,   but it can also be opportunity.  Despite years of challenges and obstacles, older foster youth can thrive when placed in a supportive environment.  With love, their transition from foster care to independence can be smooth and successful. Adults who open their homes and hearts to older foster youth can literally save a life!


I would love to hear your thoughts.


Nicki Sanders, MSW, Chief Visionary Officer
The Teen Toolbox provides youth portfolio development and civic engagement and academic enrichment opportunities to help teens set goals for life after high school and create a road map to reach those goals through its PACKAGED FOR SUCCESS™ Programs.

Comments 2

  • Well said Nicki. When I was administrator of a group home I was struck by how it must feel to live in a nice home with six other teens and no adult who actually lives there. How odd of a life is that?

    The boys were mostly out of control and angry, but mostly they were confused. I changed the atmosphere to more of a family home, hung their photos in an entryway hallway, hung their artwork, had sharing at family style dinners, invited their family, friends and the family of staff members for holiday dinners. Within one year we went from an average of $3000 a year in property damage down to $25 caused by accident. Their grades went up, they were developing friendships and were overall much happier.

    To this day I’m still parenting some of them – who are now 30 something.

    All kids, whether foster youth or not, need caring adults who offer love, support and guidance.

    Thank you for what you do.

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