Why Fostering Older Teens Matters So Much
For those of us who have parented or actively supported the growth of a child or youth, we have all wanted about the same for them: to be self-sufficient, kind, and a positive contributor to their communities.
We know the importance of being there for the big stuff in their lives—birthdays, achievements, heartbreak. Just as important to their development are our parenting techniques and simply living as an adult, which contribute to the day-to-day lessons our youth learn by merely observing our behaviors. Kids learn to navigate life just by watching us pay bills, figure out groceries for the week, manage family events scheduled at the same time, ask for help when we need it, or graciously decline an invitation to a party we don’t want to attend.
Young adults who transition from foster care into adult living may have not received the level of support that would grow their ability to be self-sufficient, kind, and positive contributors within their communities. They leave the foster care system when their brains are still developing some of their most important adult skills.
Some research suggests that a young adult is not fully capable of understanding consequences, planning for the future, or managing societal challenges until the age of 25; some experts believe it could be closer to 29! These charts illustrate the age at which the brain both matures and peaks in certain skills, suggesting vulnerability at the time they reach what we call adulthood (and beyond). Adult support during the ages of 18 to 21 is important for all young adults but is especially critical for our foster youth!
Not only can caregivers fill this role, but research also suggests that youth in foster care who have mentors during adolescence have improved outcomes: informal mentoring by nonparental adults is reported to enhance outcomes in education/employment, psychological well-being, and physical health. In addition, youth who had the support of a mentor also demonstrated a decreased participation in unhealthy behaviors, such as unprotected sexual activity, problematic alcohol and substance use, and delinquent activities.
Fostering, adopting, and mentoring older teens will offer them the opportunity to live and learn through your guidance and may enhance their abilities to do the following:
- Have more social connections
- Steer away from criminal justice involvement
- Access health care
- Find employment and job training
- Experience greater overall well-being
- Continue their education
- Experience improved housing stability
Take a moment to watch this video highlighting the impact of caregiving for older teens and consider becoming a caregiver or a mentor to a young adult!
Sources: Brodwin, E., & Gould, S. (2017, November 8). The age your brain matures at everything—it isn’t even fully developed until age 25. Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/age-brain-matures-at-everything-2017-11; and Ahrens, K. R., DuBois, D. L., Richardson, L. P., Fan, M.-Y., Lozano, P. (2008, February 1). Youth in foster care with adult mentors during adolescence have improved adult outcomes. Pediatrics, 121(2). https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2007-0508; and Youth.gov. (n.d.). Young adults formerly in foster care: Challenges and solutions. https://youth.gov/youth-briefs/foster-care-youth-brief/challenges#:~:text=This%20can%20include%20abuse%20and,%2C%20and%2For%20siblings