Deb and Michael have been foster carers for two years. They share with us their experience as to what it’s like being foster carers to pre-teen boys.
What prompted you to first enquire about becoming a foster carer? What motivated you to contact Anglicare Victoria?
After raising three of our own children through to teenage and young adults, we thought we had the capacity within our family to provide care on a part time basis to children who might need a safe home. We always knew we would not be able to be full time foster carers, and we have found a really good balance by being respite and emergency foster carers. It is a great opportunity for us to give back to the community by providing a safe and welcoming environment to other children. With an already busy and active household, we felt that part-time respite and emergency care would suit us the best.
What’s it like being a carer to pre-teen boys?? How do you make this type of foster care fit in with your lifestyle?
Raising our own kids through pre-teen and teenage years, as well as looking after our pre-teen foster kids, has provided us with a rich rewarding experience. We have found that pre-teens, are really starting to develop themselves into models of what they become as adults. This is a perfect time to help guide them and provide a safe and supportive environment to let them be their true selves. We have also found that having older children in our household has also given our pre-teen foster kids some positive role models to help them. Our own children, like everyone, have their own flaws and issues which can also provide a learning experience for our pre-teen foster kids – they learn that other kids may also face their own challenges and they are not alone.
What are some of the benefits to looking after pre-teens and older children as opposed to younger children?
Pre-teens are starting to learn to take on more responsibility and start to develop their independence. By giving them the opportunity to learn, try things and think for themselves, it can be a very rewarding experience to see them grow and start to develop solid life skills. We try to involve our pre-teen foster children in many activities and decisions while they are with us, so that they can have a voice and learn how to start dealing with the big wide world. In addition to providing the basics of a safe and stable environment to be in, we have found that with each visit from our pre-teen foster kids we learn more about them and can see the step-change in their confidence. All the children who stay with us participate as par of our family. They help our with chores and are involved in our routine.
What are the most rewarding parts of being a foster carer to pre-teen boys? What are the hardest parts?
The most rewarding parts are seeing pre-teen foster boys starting to understand their true selves, their strengths and develop confidence and resilience. Some of the challenges are that pre-teens can be unwilling to learn new skills and are starting to learn to challenge and test boundaries. Kids at that age can get bored easily and require frequent and varied activities to keep them stimulated and engaged, rather than spending all their time on screens. This can sometimes be tiring for us as carers, but with a little planning and having a “backlog” of activities to try (such as visits to the park/zoo/movies, games outside, or even helping with cooking) has helped to make this easier.
What do you think are some of the biggest myths and misconceptions about looking after pre-teen boys?
We treat each child that comes to us as an individual in the first place with their own sense of self and who they are. One of the biggest misconceptions about pre-teen boys, in our opinion, is that they can be difficult to deal with, destructive, or “too much trouble”. While this does present some different challenges than dealing with younger children, we have found that providing positive examples of behaviour, clear boundaries, and providing a supportive environment where they can make and learn from mistakes, can really make a difference to them and set them on a good path on their journey to becoming teenagers and young adults.
How has your family and children benefited from doing foster care?
Foster care has had a positive impact on our family and our own children. We have tried to give our older teenage children the opportunity to have some 1:1 time with our foster children which has helped them grow themselves. It has given us great satisfaction in seeing our foster children make even the smallest steps on improving their ability to learn and build resilience.
What would you say to other people thinking about becoming a foster carer to pre-teens, especially boys. Why should they consider doing it?
Being a foster carer, for children of any age, can be a very rewarding experience, not just for the child but for the carers as well. Being able to make even the smallest positive impact on another child can give you a great sense of reward. However, the greatest benefit is to the foster children themselves. By providing them with a safe, caring and stable environment will help build their resilience, confidence, and sense of self-worth. For pre-teens, especially boys, this is very important as they start to grow into teenagers and become more resilient as they get move involved in the community.
What has the support been like from Anglicare Victoria?
Anglicare has provided tremendous support to us, both from initial training and enablement in the earlier stages of our journey as well as helping with advice and guidance on specific questions we’ve had along the way.