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A day in the life of a Foster Carer

Hi! I'm a foster carer for the Local Authority, Foster Swansea. This blog is an account of my experiences, thoughts and feelings of what it's like to be a foster carer.

Contact usWhen I think back to when I was interested in fostering, I would have loved the opportunity to find out more from those who foster, so I hope this blog helps you decide if fostering is for you! It would be good to know your comments on the blog.

I thought about it for years before I picked up the phone... and we haven't looked back since!!

Well Christmas came and went pretty fast, so now we're into January and have probably broken loads of resolutions already. A new year is a chance to take stock and often make changes and for those thinking about fostering, it can be a time to take that first step!

I thought about it for years before I picked up the phone, I had thought of a million reasons why I couldn't do it but never thought of the qualities my family have that meant we could! I know it's a huge decision to make but for all the reasons you can think of why you couldn't, even if you think the only reason you can is because you care enough to try then that's all the reason you need to take the first step!

Finally, I took the plunge...I plucked up the courage to phone. An interview on a local radio station gave me the push I needed to make the call, I heard one of the social workers from Foster Swansea talking about all the things I had worried your spare bedroom didn't have to be huge, (that was a relief because ours is tiny), that it didn't matter if you were divorced, that my own child was still quite young...we smoked and had two big dogs. All things I thought would put a kibosh on my application. I was brave and phoned the recruitment line straight away, before I had a chance to talk myself out of it.

I spoke to a lovely lady who asked me a few questions, just name and address, date of birth, then she answered all my questions about the small bedroom, dogs, being divorced, she was really friendly and didn't make me feel like I was being silly, a few days later a social worker came to visit to see our home, meet the dogs and my son and tell us more about the process. Again she was really lovely and reassuring, she left us some forms to fill in and shortly after we went on a training course to prepare us for fostering and what it might be like. This was over 4 weeks with loads of other people just starting on the fostering journey. The course tutor was lovely, she was really knowledgeable and she would answer all your questions no matter how silly we thought they were. There were also social workers there available to chat informally and answer all our worries and concerns. We met some lovely people on the course and some we still see now at Foster Swansea training courses and Christmas parties, it's funny to look back and remember how nervous we all were!!

After the course finished I had a phone call from the social worker who was going to start our Form F assessment (this is the process that everyone interested in fostering has to complete). We had lots of visits from the social worker which were very informal but did explore lots of personal questions. Our social worker was great though, they managed to keep the mood light hearted and it was actually quite interesting to reflect on how you were parented and how you've arrived at the place you're at today. The process takes between 4-6 months and we had homework to do in-between visits. Once the Form F is completed the final stage is Fostering Panel. In its most formal description, it's like an interview and I immediately imagined an Alan Sugar scenario involving a big scary boardroom, I was petrified, but in reality I was worried over nothing! We weren't applying for a place on The Apprentice, the panel of people were really friendly and we had a few giggles and felt at ease. Looking back, it was quite an emotional day, as it was the end of the journey...the day when we were approved as foster carers and the start of the next part of our journey... and we haven't looked back since!

It's cool being a foster family!

We foster as a family and I really like being part of a family that fosters! I have made some good friends and some great friends who I still see!

You don't always get on with all the children that stay with you but when people ask me what I don't like about fostering there isn't much I can think of. Sometimes it's hard when other children are nasty to my parents but most of fostering I really like!

Our house is always full, my dad says we're like the Waltons...whoever they are! I like making new friends and having a busy family but when they leave it's not nice! I have a cuddly toy that one of my foster brothers got for me when he left that I take with me whenever I stay somewhere overnight. I went away with the school a few weeks ago and I took it with me then, it reminds me of him.

I really like helping to look after others because it's important everyone has a chance. We went to Folly Farm the other day and saw loads of different animals that the other children hadn't seen before, they thought it was great!

It's cool being a foster family!


Fostering at Christmas

Fostering at Christmas can be the most rewarding Christmas you'll have known, but it can be equally frustrating and heart breaking in equal measure. Some children write a Christmas list as long as your arm (as your own children would do) and it's hard to get the balance right, as the temptation can be to get them everything they want, to somehow compensate because they may have had a rough start. A little tip though, never buy two teenage girls similar presents, you're just asking for an argument :-) 

You also have to be mindful that what you "normally" do at Christmas may be completely different to what the child living with you is used to who may have different traditions and experiences and it can be hard for them to adjust. It does make you realise how confusing a time it can be for children. 

Other years I have spent most of Christmas day driving around as our placement was spending Christmas day with family. Our house has gone from quiet and calm one year to busy, noisy and full the next...that's fostering! 

It can be lovely and so rewarding when you see their faces on Christmas morning but also difficult when they ask why their mammy hasn't bought them anything or they ask what meat the turkey is or why do we have crackers? We take a lot of the traditions of Christmas for granted and can forget that sometimes children have had different experiences. 

Christmas isn't always going to be like the "perfect family Christmas" you see on the Christmas adverts but that's family life and it's no different being a family that fosters! 

We can all make a difference

As foster carers, we try hard to give everything to the children who we care for and the main motivating factor when we decided to foster was the hope that we could make a difference, no matter how small, to those less fortunate.

As a foster family we all shared a very humbling experience recently when attended a local village chapel harvest service. We all went along, even the eldest boy who is with us, he wasn't keen at first but the promise of a buffet at the end swayed it! The service was about the whole community coming together and raising awareness of people less well off than ourselves and how we could help make a difference.

We've often got involved in these types of events as a family and fund raise when we can for other countries and those less fortunate, it's something we've always enjoyed doing as a family. However, I was shocked that the young man (who hasn't actually been with us all that long) was also really keen and interested to know more about how he could help too!

We came home and all the children were excited about how they could help and what they could achieve together, they all wanted to pack their shoes boxes with goodies for a child who won't have anything for Christmas.

The night at the harvest service made us all think about how we can make a difference and if I can make the same difference to this young lad's life as he has done by helping someone he doesn't even know, through the chapel, then that will be a big difference....and I can tell you something, we'll give it everything we have and more and that's what fostering is all about!


I like knowing we're helping a child and if they can return to their families, it's the best feeling ever!

A lot of people ask me how my own child feels about fostering, so this is his account;

"When we first started fostering I was really excited to have someone to play with, but I soon realised that I wouldn't get on with everyone who stayed or we might not have stuff in common. This can be tough but I think I find it easier as I'm getting older and now I'm more realistic. It's like school, you don't always get along with everyone so it's not realistic to expect to get along with a child that you've only just met.

Sometimes children are rude and swear at my Mum, I really hate that, but my mum seems to brush it off. Although sometimes it doesn't seem fair, I do understand that she's giving them a chance to settle. We have house rules on our fridge which I have to follow, things like making sure you don't come out of the bathroom in only a towel. My friends think it's funny, but it makes the house run smoothly.

The worst part of fostering is when a child you've really been friends with leaves. Sometimes I'm surprised when I get upset as I didn't realise how much I liked having them around until they leave. We only foster short term and I prefer that, I like knowing we're helping a child and if they can return to their families it's the best feeling ever. But I do miss them.

The best part is sometimes you make a friend for life and now and again I bump into them and it's nice to hear they're happy. My friends and teachers are shocked and impressed when they know we're a foster family, they always say "Don't you get attached?"... it can be hard but whenever a child leaves my mum always asks if I'm still happy or if I would choose to stop fostering but I always say no. You get to make friends, have fun, there's always company on days out and best of all you make friends with other children who foster". 

Lovely day

My last blog talked a little bit about how our whole family is involved with fostering and I know for lots of people considering fostering, a common worry is how fostering will impact on your own children. And as I've said before, this was one of our biggest concerns!

When thinking about fostering and indeed, once you are approved as a foster carer, it is important to recognise the role your own children will play in the foster family and that they may need help and support at times too!

We're lucky at Foster Swansea as there's a group called "Mates Who Care" for our own children to meet up, have fun and meet other children who do the same thing as them. My two enjoy going to the group and have made some good friends, it's also a place for them to off load sometimes and is an extra support outside of the family! Of course, most of the time, the children seem to cope with things better than us adults and it's always reassuring when they let you know how much they enjoy fostering and want to continue to do it! Especially if you're having a hard time!

I think the Mates Who Care group needs a special mention as I wanted to share what a fantastic time the children had last time they met in the summer! They attended the "Down to Earth" project in Murton for a tremendous day getting back to nature! When I picked them up at the end there were lots of smiling faces (and that was just the adults, LOL). It was a sign of the good day they'd had when I couldn't stop them talking all the way home about how they'd climbed trees and carved sticks (which are still in their bedrooms).

Normally when the group meet, as well as doing fun things (I was very jealous when they went quad biking!) they also discuss various things that may affect them or that they need support with. This time they talked about children's rights, something the children already knew quite a lot about (from school) and I know they really enjoyed the group discussion on this.

Foster Swansea also have similar group for children in placement to meet up called the 1,2,3 Forum and they got to enjoy the activities at Down to Earth that day too! It was nice for the groups to meet up this time!

I've talked before about the importance of play and children enjoying experiences outdoors and of all the days out we had in the summer holidays (and all the money we spent), they still talk about that day. Sometimes the most simple of things are the fun things for children. Walks in the woods and free days out are often the best. Thanks again everyone!

Decision to Foster

Well another summer is nearly over, the children will be back in school and then we'll be planning for Christmas!!! It's been quite a strange summer, our foster children have spent a lot of time either out with friends or seeing family and our own teenager has been out a lot with friends too, so I've found myself at a loose end on occasions, at one point I think I even had a conversation with my other half! 

We've had a few days out as a family and even managed to fit in a little trip away. It was the first time we'd been away all together, we didn't go far, just a holiday park but it went really well. The older boys got involved in lots of different activities that were going on and spent a lot more time with my other half which was nice. Foster Swansea encourage foster carers to take children on family holidays wherever possible as it's important for children to feel part of your family and this holiday certainly helped us all spend time together, as a family. We are entitled to two weeks paid break per year though which we usually try and take when we haven't got children with us, to give us a chance to recharge our batteries. 

I was reminded recently what a big decision it is to foster and conversations with a couple who are applying to foster with Foster Swansea took me back to when we decided to foster! I went along to one of Foster Swansea's "meet and greet" sessions that are organised for people who are thinking about fostering. It gives people a chance to meet with foster carers and ask any questions. It brought back so many memories of how nervous we all were, the questions you having racing through your head, and the nerves of finally getting through to the Fostering Panel and being approved as foster carers! I hope I reassured people that panel isn't as bad as you think, that all your questions and worries have been heard before. I remember one of our biggest concerns and probably still something we worry about on occasions, was how our own children would react to fostering and now, a few years down the line, 9 times out of 10, the children deal with things better than us! 

It's good to chat to people about what fostering is actually like, I know it helped us when we were going through the process and if we can help others by giving them an insight into what it's like then hopefully this will encourage others to come forward! 

It's not all Happiness

Well most of my Blogs are positive but also we must keep it real.

We've had a difficult few months as a family and now it's time for the young person who is staying with us to move on! It's never easy when children and young people leave you, especially when things have been tough for everyone and you worry that things have failed? But you can't really think of fostering in those terms, it can't be measured, you just do your best, as a family!

I have fostered for many years now and I'd be lying if I said I'd never thought, "is this the right thing for me, the right thing for us as a foster?" We do talk about this as a family now and again as it's important for us that everyone remains happy and every time I bring it up, my children always say, "Dad don't start, yes we still want to do this".

It's as if the kids put things into prospective a lot easier than us adults sometimes! I was going through the front door the other night to a fostering meeting. As I was going out my Daughter came up to me and just cuddled me and said "I love you Dad, don't do it will you". I said " I love you too sweetheart. but do what?".

"I know it's been hard but you aren't going to stop fostering are you?" ..."No, no I'm not" I said.

She smiled and said "cos look what we have done, we are good at this aren't we".. I smiled and said "Yes love we certainly are".

The conversation made me think of the friends and extended family we now have through fostering and all the happy memories came back and I was inspired again by my little girl and how strong she is and never mind how tough things get, she is still 100% committed to trying to help others.

It's amazing when you find the support you need within your own family because after all it is indeed a team effort and one of the junior members of our team may actually be the captain because she has revitalized me and now we a ready for the next challenge.

Summer Holidays!

So it's the summer holidays what to do with the children???? This is what goes through my head every June before schools finish! Every year can be so different depending on the children or young people staying with you!

Having my own teenagers at home, I was used to finding it a challenge getting them to surface from their bedrooms before lunch time during the school holidays, let alone to enjoy days out as a family! When I first started fostering I think I was very naïve and thought that everyone would play together and get along and days out would be easy, I laugh now at how "green" I was!

Last summer was interesting as over the 6 week holiday we had lots of different children stay with us on respite, different ages and genders, so trying to arrange days out to amuse everyone was difficult. Getting everyone to agree to do something was like pulling teeth! In the end we managed to come up with a "system" that seemed to work for all. We had a big bowl of "ideas" that everyone in the house (including the adults) could write down their ideas for what they'd like to do! There were things in there like, "have a film night", "go shopping", "go to Folly Farm". Every day, each member of the family had a turn to pick one idea that we would all do for the day! It seemed to work really well as everyone knew their ideas were in the "pot" and surprisingly a day out at Folly Farm (the little one's request) wasn't met with as much opposition from the teenagers as I thought! They understood it was her "day" and actually really enjoyed making her visit to Folly Farm a really memorable day! I'll definitely be trying this again this year!

Something else I'll find useful this summer is a recent training course I went on, organised by Foster Swansea but run by a charity called "Learning through Landscapes". The workshops were all about the importance of outdoor play for children and young people of all ages! We had several hands on sessions, which were all done outside in local woods, but best of all was being let loose to travel back to our childhoods, good and bad. We had to build our own den and tepee in our "tribes". It was a truly imaginative experience and I'm looking forward to putting into practice what I learnt and give the children who stay with us fun memories of outdoor play to take with them! A handy toolkit I'll also be using is the National Trusts "50 things to do before I'm 11 ¾ ", which includes things like climbing trees, flying a kite and going on a mini beast hunt!

Of course, with all the best made plans in the world I can guarantee that the teenagers will also have their own plans for the summer, mostly involving spending time with their friends but whatever happens this summer, I can guarantee there won't be a dull moment!


School Prom

It's a very proud moment when your own children go to their school prom. A time in their life we can't wait for! Ok, let's say it as it is much is this going to cost me? How much? really? for one night? I don't remember the limos and fancy dresses when I was in school! Jokes aside though, it is a proud moment to see them all dressed up and happy, so excited and ready for the night of their lives, ready for the party and all the fun memories.

But what about the student who hasn't got their parents there, without family to share their photos and memories with. Will the prom be the greatest night of their lives? Or another time that makes them feel different.

For those young people who aren't able to share these moments with their parents, to be part of their day and make it happen for them is so rewarding! To give them the opportunities that other young people have, to treat them like any other teenager (like we do every other day) and to try our best when all they really want is their mum and dad to be there, that's what fostering is and this is why we do it!

This is why we go that extra mile, to see that smile on their face the same as the other children. Fostering gives these young people positive, childhood memories! Ok, so prom might not be the "best night of their lives" but for certain it will be better because we were there to try, we were there to foster!

Busy times.....proud times!

Well the beginning of spring has been busy to say the least!!

We've had Foster Care Fortnight, I went to a few meet & greet sessions to chat to people interested in fostering and encourage more people to come forward!

When we first decided to foster we went along to a similar event and found it really useful to speak to other foster carers so I always try and help out when I can and talk to others who are interested. I'm especially passionate about helping out at the moment as Foster Swansea is currently looking for more people to care for teenagers and young people! I know lots of people worry about caring for older children and automatically assume that all teenagers are violent, abusive, drug takers that have no respect! Extreme I know but if you listened to the media, that's certainly what you'd think! And yes, I know I was worried about caring for older children and when we first came into fostering, caring for teenagers was the last thing on my mind, which is I guess why I want to help dispel the myths and tell people about our positive experiences with young people!

Foster Swansea also organised a "family fun day" during Foster Care Fortnight which we all enjoyed! The older two enjoyed playing football and generally competing against each other in whatever way they could and the little one had her face painted and met her idol "Peppa Pig". It was good to catch up with other foster carers too!

The young girl staying with us at the moment has been doing really well with her education, I'm so proud of her! We did have a bit of a rough start to the month as she was struggling to stick to our "house rules" and pushing boundaries. We had to remind her of the consequences of her actions and when we followed through with this, she found it really difficult, but it did work and we eventually managed to agree on the house rules and all worked together to stick to them! Proud moment time again!

Her Social Worker is really pleased with her progress too, particularly the improvements with her education as she has always struggled with her attendance at school. She's done so well and has made a massive effort and is now really committed to her education, I am so thrilled for her I could burst. The mature attitude she's showing to her studies is almost unrecognisable from when she first came to us! I'm hoping this is a real turning point for her and the beginning of a new start! 

The importance of play!

There's been lots of reports in the media lately of local schools losing their playing fields and outside spaces which has made me wonder about the impact of this on children and young people and got me thinking about the importance of play, particularly playing outdoors!

Children of all ages need to play, they need to find out their own heath and safety rules (within reason). If I fell down a muddy bank in school, well, I just learnt not to do it again. These days it feels as though we are constantly telling children what they can and can't do and then we wonder why they can't make decisions for themselves and lack independence skills when they're older.

I have tried to encourage most of the children and young people in my care to get involved in different activities, particularly sports and games that can be enjoyed outdoors.

I can think of one young girl in particular who stayed with us who really got a lot out of learning how to play because to be totally honest, she didn't know how to until she came to us! She had very little confidence and not much experience of enjoying being outdoors. Don't get me wrong, she was also a typical teenage girl, very confident on the outside, gave the persona of knowing everything and was not interested at all in playing "silly games" with us lot! As a family we have a very outdoors lifestyle so she soon realised that it was a case of joining in or sitting on the side lines. It took a while but slowly she started to join in and was actually really good with our youngest child. Seeing my 7 year old beating this 15 year old girl I thought, "this is going to go one of two ways", thankfully, she learnt not to give up or feel defeated but enjoyed watching her new "little sister" win and be happy!

Now, if that isn't learning then I don't know what is! She was learning how to play and enjoy being a "child", learning how to win but also how to lose and most importantly was gaining confidence and laughing again!

I think one of the most important things we do as a family when children come to stay is help them to enjoy being outdoors and show them the many ways in which you can play and get the most out of the spaces that are around us! We have found that creating these positive experiences gives children of all ages the chance to learn lots of new skills which carry them through life and importantly, helps them to enjoy their childhood!

Arrrrrgh Tantrums !

"I'm not tiding my room"

"Don't tell me what to do you're not my parents"

"What do you know you're not 16?"

"You are only doing it for the money"

"In your day there was no fashion you don't understand. God man you're pathetic"

He slams the door, refuses to come out of his room. He won't eat any food, throws his new phone across the room, sulks and won't talk to anyone for a day! Tantrums aren't just for the "terrible twos"! And actually, I can do a pretty good job of tantrums myself;

"I've had a guts full today, I can't seem to get through"

"If they slam one more door"

"How doesn't school 'get' him"

I go for a walk on my sulk? Yes probably. Childish? Yes, I probably am on occasions! For him, he has lost his Mum and Dad. He has a reason to hate the world. For me, yes I'm a foster carer but I am only human with real feelings and real emotions. I will react and I will be upset like everyone else in the world. I will act like an emotional person because I care.

But despite this, I am still a professional and from experience I have learnt how best to respond, so he knows that I care. Knows that whatever he says or does, I'll still be there!

So when he has his tantrums, when he slams the door. When he says I am pathetic, I can understand, because he has a reason...a very good reason! My reason is just because I care!

What makes a "good" foster carer?

When you see the ads and hear people talking about fostering, it's always about making a difference and offering a stable home...and don't get me wrong, these are important and the reasons why some people decide to foster! But me, no! I have been, and I think I will always be, results driven. I am a sports person. Win or lose. I win most of the time and I don't like to lose. If there is a way to win I will find it...the next step was to take this winning mentality into Fostering. This will be easy I thought, sorting people's problems out, because that is what I do. I sort problems out. Just deal with the situation. Find a solution and deal with it....not hard is it? LOL!

Well.... Hard it was! What was different and what I quickly learnt was I was "working with" people who were used to losing. Used to taking second best. They all were giving up on the challenge. Giving up and not fighting to get a result. A winning result, or at least that is what I thought. I almost walked away from Fostering, more than once!

I felt I was failing, failing the young people that stayed with me because I didn't appear to be helping them or "making a difference". But one day something changed for me, I spoke to someone about this feeling of "success or failure, this person was also a foster carer and like me, had gone through the same failings many years ago!

We talked about success and failure, how I struggled with restraints that I'd never had before, people with problems like I'd never seen before, I was working in a new area that was alien to me! But she recalled a story that really made me think, "If a child came to stay with you who wouldn't talk to anyone, if this child finally one day says, "goodbye" on their way out, is this success or failure? Neither she said, but you have done your best and possibly more than anyone else". I kind of got what she was saying.

Now, I don't measure success in the same way. Fostering has changed me, changed me for the better and helped me to think about success in little measurements. And to realise that these little measurements are huge in some people's lives.

If I did leave fostering now I know I have helped at least one young person changed their life. It was a battle but that would make all the years of hard work a success. Yes it's been a success!

Fostering isn't like a normal job, we don't "clock off" or have a staff canteen, it's more than a job, it's a way of life...!

As a foster carer my days are certainly busy to say the least! There's definitely no time for Jeremy Kyle in the mornings! (well...maybe sometimes when I'm doing the ironing!)

Today my day started just before 7am... some days can be later when the snooze button is too tempting!! I only have one school run at the moment so it's not too bad!

Today is support group day, these groups usually happen once a month and are quite informal and a good chance for a catch up with the others. Sometimes we all just need a whinge and a moan, but you can guarantee there is always someone, who can help and just lend a sympathetic ear....and there's biscuits!! Today's session is about supporting young people in care into further education after school. There's a guest speaker coming in from a local college to tell us about how we can support young people and what help they can access!

From the support group, I'm straight off to the school for an early pick up, we have a review meeting this afternoon to discuss how our "placement" (the girl who is with us at the moment) is getting on. She's coming along too and her mum. My Supervising Social Worker will be there too!

Before I settle down tonight I also need to make sure I have everything ready for my visit from my Supervising Social Worker tomorrow. He usually visits every 6 weeks but I can always phone him if I need help, some weeks I can end up speaking to him every day! When he visits he'll read through and sign my recordings, which are like a diary really where you write about your young person every day. I usually do mine just before bed. He'll also check how we're all doing and chat to my own children when they're about. I know he'll be reminding me about a training course I'm due to attend later this week too! I've been on quite a few training courses recently, this week's is online safety which when you've got two teenagers in the house and an 8 year old who thinks they're 18, then online safety is a BIG one in our house!

The young person's Social Worker also visits the house frequently to see how they're doing.. I'm usually banished to the kitchen, with the biscuits again! They have a chat with me too sometimes if they've only managed to get a grunt out of her that day!

You're probably wondering if I have any time to myself?? But I do, with two teenagers at home they don't always want to spend a lot of time with an old fuddy duddy like me, they're usually out with friends, doing homework or playing on their computers. We always have "family time" when we sit down to dinner though... this is one of my favourite parts of the day!

Fostering isn't like a normal job...we don't "clock off", we're available 24/7 and we don't have a staff canteen!! But its more than a job, it's a way of life, myself and my husband do it because we care!

How we changed our minds about teenagers...

When we first decided to foster like most people, we were wary about looking after teenagers. At the end of our "Skills to Foster" preparation training course we were beginning to think more about what gender and age of children we would like to care for. We both felt we had most experience in looking after girls and that younger children would work with our family best....How wrong we were!!!!

Over the years, we have cared for many different aged children and to begin with we stuck to our initial thoughts that we could care best for younger girls. Having a younger daughter of our own and a teenage son we thought a girl similar in age to our youngest would be company for our daughter! Sometimes this has been the case, but not always. Your own children won't always get on with children who stay with you. I quickly learnt this as I assumed that children of the same age would have lots in common and would be best buds, but you can't expect children to get along just because they live in the same house, much like having your own children, there will always be disagreements and differences.

After caring for lots of children under the age of 10 and much younger children too, I started to change my mind about caring for teenagers, I had forgotten how much entertaining and attention little ones need. I'd forgotten about the sleepless nights, wiping bottoms and wiping food off my walls! Our Supervising Social Worker felt we had the skills and ability to care for older children. We built up our experience by looking after teenagers for shorter periods of time for respite which helped us gain confidence and realise how much fun and laughter teenagers can bring!

We've cared for teenage girls as well as teenage boys, and although I know a lot of people would be nervous about a teenage girl and teenage boy together, if you're strict with your safe caring eg dressing gowns when coming out of the bathroom and nobody in each others bedrooms and make everyone aware of it from day one you shouldn't have any worries.

There can be different things to consider when caring for teenagers, I've had to manage things such as smoking, pushing boundaries and sometimes aggressive behaviour but all children are different and these behaviours aren't always associated with teenagers. We have done much better in caring for older children and actually, it fits in really well with our family caring for older boys! We have fun in the evenings arguing about the best football teams!

Having a teenager ourselves, we know how difficult teenage years can be. Going through things like puberty, first love, first kiss, perhaps new schools and difficulties with friends is hard for any teenager, on top of all that, we're asking "looked after" children to have a new family and get used to living in a new home with new people with new rules!

The most important thing I've learnt is not to have preconceived ideas about a child based on their age. When I speak to people about looking after teenagers I tell them "don't be scared", I thought I couldn't look after teenagers but now I couldn't imagine my house without them!

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