Editor’s note: I received the following message from Hayley Stoebner, the recruitment coordinator with FosteringWA:

Does the very thought of a having a teenager in your home make you shudder with fear?  You are not alone! The teen years can be trying for parents and caregivers (not to mention for the teens themselves), but those years can be triumphant as well!

Teenagers experience tremendous growth and change (physically, intellectually, morally, spiritually, socially, and emotionally) during this stage of development. Teens strive to determine their identities and values, learn how to make their own decisions, and ultimately work to create separation from their families. Many adults think that teens no longer want or need their guidance but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Adolescents need parents even more during this developmental stage in order to guide them into a healthy adulthood. Teenagers who are in foster care are no exception. They need individuals and families to become foster parents to nurture and support them.

There are a lot of positives associated with fostering teens. Here is a Top-Ten List of reasons (in no particular order) why you should foster a teen:

  1. No diapers to change.
  2. Teens sleep through the night.
  3. Teens will be ready to move out sooner…but will still visit.
  4. You don’t just get a child, you get a friend.
  5. Teens will keep you up to date with the latest fashion.
  6. No more carpools; teens can drive you places.
  7. No bottles, formula, or burp rags required.
  8. Teens can help out around the house.
  9. Teens can learn from you.
  10. Teens can teach you how to work your electronic devices.

All joking aside, the statistics for teens who bounce around the foster care system — or age-out of foster care without a permanent adult connection — are grim.  According to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, when compared to general population peers, youth exiting foster care are more likely to drop out of school, experience unemployment, become parents before they are ready, experience homelessness, end up jail, and suffer from PTSD at a rate two times higher than military veterans.

The solution to all of the aforementioned social ills are families for teens in foster care! Furthermore, there are teens in foster care who are legally free and waiting for an adoptive family. (To learn more about adopting a child from foster care, go to the Northwest Adoption Exchange at https://www.nwae.org.)

Or, consider becoming a foster parent in the Extended Foster Care program. Extended Foster Care provides an opportunity for young people to voluntarily continue to receive foster care services through age 21 while they finish school or participate in an employment program. Previously youth were required to enroll by age 19.  However, earlier this year, state legislators approved changes to the  Extended Foster Care program that allows youth to enter and exit the program as many times as needed until age 21. (What a wonderful safety net!)

Do you have what it takes to foster, or adopt, a teen?  Supports are available to help meet the youth’s needs such as medical and dental insurance, financial assistance (foster care rates and adoption subsidies), case management services, etc.

Contact FosteringWA at 1-877-620-5748 or fosteringWA@ewu.edu or find us online at https://sites.ewu.edu/fosteringwa/contact/ to learn more.