For the last two years Laura Noble and her partner Jake Baxter, have been providing long-term foster care to teenagers.
Laura talked to us about why she prefers looking after teenagers and how she makes it fit with her teaching career.
Why do you prefer looking after teenagers?
We have always asked for teenage placements, as we felt that it worked with our work commitments and lifestyle better. A lot of people called us crazy for taking teenagers, but it’s been great! As a high school teacher my work hours fit well around our fostering commitments. We also find teenagers more independent and able to get themselves to and from school. We prefer providing long-term foster care because of the consistency it provides, such as the ability to plan our commitments in advance knowing that we have a placement for the next few months.
What’s your current placement like?
We currently have a 13 year old boy who we’ve had in our care for almost a year. He has been an absolute pleasure to have as part of our family. He has grown so much in the year that he has lived with us and we know that we have equipped him with some great life skills. He has grown in independence, assertiveness and especially in his organisation skills. He is now in the process of transitioning back to his birth family, but we still get to see him weekly for weekend respite.
Why do you find foster care of teenagers so rewarding?
One of the best things about taking teenagers is that they have a lot of extra-curricular interests and hobbies. It’s been great to be exposed to new clubs and groups that we wouldn’t have otherwise! One of the most rewarding experiences is watching them excel in an activity or sport and seeing their faces light up when they realise that you are proud of them. Some of the best memories we have as carers has involved camping, hiking and four wheel driving. The three boys we’ve cared for in our time as foster carers have all really loved the outdoors. Two of boys had an interest in fishing, which we had never really tried before, so allowing them to show and teach us was an amazing experience!
What are some of the biggest myths about looking after teenagers?
I think one of the biggest myths about looking after teenagers is that they are going to have quite challenging behaviours and be a bit more physical and harder to control. We’ve certainly had a little bit of that in the past but Anglicare has been really great at providing the extra support and hands-on strategies when we’ve needed it. Right now though, the boy we’ve got is amazing and you can’t really fault any of his behaviours. He’s such a breeze to have and quite placid and if there are any issues we sit down and talk about it as a family. We haven’t really needed a lot of help or intervention from Anglicare and it’s been a great placement.
What would you say to other people thinking about foster care?
The one thing I say to people considering foster caring is ‘what have you got to lose?’ Nobody has been able to come up with an answer to that yet! Foster caring is not for everyone, but if you are thinking about it, it’s probably a good sign that it might actually be a good fit for you! And if you do the training and realise it isn’t, then at least you know you gave it a try. You can and will make a positive difference in someone else’s life. So I say give it a shot! You can even start with respite or emergency placements to get a feel for it. Or you can jump straight in the deep end as a long-term carer and learn as you go!