Margery’s Rules For Fostering Teen Girls
I’ll never forget the day that the first teen girl in foster care was placed in my home – it was September 21, 2005. Many foster parents prefer to care for younger children – they think teens will be too difficult or they’ll create too much drama. That just isn’t the case.
After a career working with teens in group homes, I knew that I could provide the structure and close relationship that teen girls needed. Since that first placement more than 12 years ago, I’ve come up with simple approach to fostering teen girls and helping them prepare for independence.
Give Them Security: It takes time and patience to show them that you’re there for them. There are girls who come in and they bond right away, but other girls are skeptical.
Building a secure and close bond starts right away. I let my girls settle in and get comfortable in my home. We always start by going shopping together for the necessities – things like shampoo and clothing – so they feel at home. Having nice things can help them feel better about themselves and what they are going through. I feel comfortable with them in my home and I want them to feel comfortable, too.
My girls will bond with each other and help one another, too. You’d be surprised how much teens open up when they can talk to other teens. With trust for each other, we can talk about many things that the girls might not feel comfortable sharing with their caseworker. It helps them to heal.
Give Them Freedom: Some of the girls are very mature and responsible. When it comes to things like dances and school events, I want the girls to be involved.
I also trust them to hang out with their friends and do normal teen things, such as shopping, without me. When they come home after shopping, I check their receipts and make sure they are doing what they say. But, I try to give them independence and allow them to do things on their own.
For many of my girls, independence and personal responsibility are important lessons. They might not have been able to do things independently, so they need help learning to cook, clean or do the laundry. We work on those skills together in my home.
Give Them Rules: I have simple rules about curfew, keeping the house clean, sharing and stealing, and cell phones. But the most important rule in my home is that we respect each other. This doesn’t always come easy. We talk about what respect means. How do you show respect to everyone – to me, family members, friends, caseworkers, new people in the home and my dog Obediah? If there is conflict, how do you fix that in a respectful way?
Rules come with consequences. For example, in my house, we stop using cell phones and laptops at 8 p.m. If I have to repeatedly ask one of the girls to put their devices away, then the next day they have to put their phone and laptop away even earlier. They want their phones so they follow the rules!
Sometimes, instead of a consequence, it’s better for me to teach the girls. Through my actions, I can teach them that they are safe and do not need to break the rules in order to get what they need in order to feel safe. For example, because some of my girls haven’t had food, they might hoard or steal from someone else. This is when I have to show them that they have safety and they have everything they need.
When I first became a foster mom, I knew I had the skills and the passion to help teen girls. Now, I have so many daughters and I love seeing them grow up and start their own lives.
Margery has been a foster mom since 2005, when she was first certified by Ariel Clinical Services. Learn more about foster care and adoption in Colorado.