Teenagers are hard to place in the foster-care system. We always assumed we’d get teenagers because, well, we’re open to having teenagers. My husband works with teenagers, and I used to work with teenagers. We understand their dramas and their this-moment-is-everything attitude. I’ve had teenagers be incredibly mad at me. So has my husband. We’ve both had teenagers cry with us about their struggles. We’ve shared in their exuberances. We genuinely and truly like teenagers.
Still, stereotypes about teenagers in foster care are a real thing, and I’m sure that they exist for a reason. Teenagers who struggle with anger are very different than young children who struggle with anger because they are nearly fully fledged adults. They can hurt you in ways young children cannot. Teenagers who act out do so in ways that can be very dangerous to themselves or to others, but not all teenagers in foster care act out.
Our two teenagers are respectful, independent, and helpful. They say things like “thank you for making dinner” when they join us at the table every night. When offered a soda at one of my friend’s house, she says “thank you” after being given a glass. I asked one to unload the dishwasher, she unhesitatingly did so even though I found out later she hadn’t been feeling well. The other has willingly taken on the task of caring for our chickens on a near daily basis. Mostly without reminders. They’re relatively easy to get out of bed and off to school. One is very empathetic. When upset that more of her stuff hasn’t arrived yet after two weeks of living with us, she doesn’t yell at me because she knows I don’t have any control over it. Instead, she says, “it must be tough being a foster parent.” I taught one kiddo how to make eggs the way she likes them (sunny side up!), and now she gets up in the morning and cooks her own breakfast (and mostly cleans up afterwards.).
Don’t get me wrong, they’re still teenagers. One wants to spend all her time in her room except at dinner (and when she joins us, she’s a great companion). The other has had a few bumps in the road about appropriate use of technology and honesty and got a bit of an attitude when we had to talk to her about the school-issued iPad. Their room looks like a disaster zone. But it’s not my room, and that’s not something I feel is worth the battle when they help keep the rest of the house clean and are otherwise respectful. They’ll get squirrelly and loud together and be complete goofballs. They’ll toss around some slang and figures from pop culture and give each other crap loudly. You know, just how teenaged girls who are close friends do.
We genuinely like them living with us and will miss them whenever they go.