Lindsay King became a foster carer when her own daughter was small, she has been fostering for over 22 years. As her own children grew up, Lindsay decided to foster older teens, providing a safe, healthy, nurturing environment for vulnerable young people.
Fostering teens involves helping them to develop independent living skills so they can work towards ‘going it alone’ as young adults.
Because of her fostering background, Lindsay and her husband are able to look after more challenging children that are under sixteen and currently provide a home for a fifteen-year-old boy, a fourteen-year-old girl and a sixteen-year-old girl. Lindsay explains that her route to fostering was different to the norm:
“We have been fostering ever since my own daughter was small. We had a family member that needed looking after and we found her quite challenging, in fact too challenging for us.
There were lots of people involved at the time and the girl that we were caring for couldn’t comply with their requests and we didn’t know what to do. So, I asked my husband ‘should we do it properly and go through the right avenue, so that we can learn how to do it better?’.
I wanted to know how to do it more effectively than I was doing when I was looking after her. This is what led me into fostering”.
Lindsay explains there is lots of support that you receive as a foster carer:
“Even back then, when we were new foster carers, people came and saw you a couple of times a month to help and guide you through the fostering experience. Things have changed a bit now and it’s even better.
Fostering Devon has a brilliant support team that you can call on including support workers and a social worker that come to see me and the children too. There’s also a ‘wrap-around’ service to check if there are any issues with the placement. It can sometimes be a struggle with a lack of social workers, but I am well supported”.
Lindsay plays an important role as a carer. She provides stability and a place where young people can first find their feet, then learn how to succeed and become responsible and productive members of society in their own right.
There are many day-to-day life skills that we might take for granted but these young people have never been shown how to do them:
“I encourage them to keep clean, show them how to take care of themselves and try to help them budget with their food. They don’t arrive good at budgeting or cooking so I give them advice and help.
They all have their own rooms to keep tidy and when they are older they have their own cupboard and shelf in the fridge, to encourage them to live independently.
My role is also to guide them through education until they are 18. We also need to keep them safe in regard to the internet and grooming. We make sure they are talking to the right people and also teach them about alcohol and drugs. There’s also the normal stuff – like washing and ironing.”
A major part of the fostering role is teaching young people life skills but looking after young people can also be particularly rewarding too.
“It’s very rewarding. Taking them out for their birthdays, just a meal out and them enjoying being with you and appreciating it afterwards. This makes it all worthwhile.
One of the young people that I fostered made me a god parent to one of their own children which was lovely – although I do now have to babysit from time to time! My own daughter is still friendly with the older children which is nice.”
Lindsay believes that you need particular qualities to foster teens:
“I used to work in a garage before my daughter and son were born and then when they were small I started child minding which gave me some skills to start off with.
Ultimately though you need to be caring and nurturing towards children and be prepared to treat them like they are one of your own. With teenagers it’s about getting the boundaries right – so they know you care about them and they care about you, but there are boundaries that should be there.
I don’t know anything different now. I can’t imagine life without it. If you’re considering fostering – just give it a go!”