Being a teen is never easy, but fostered teens face additional challenges when compared to their peers who are not in foster care. These challenges can be overcome, but they require a teen to have access to a team of supportive social workers, counselors, teachers and mentors. This team of caring adults must be willing to provide the long-term emotional and practical support a teen needs to make the transition from being a child to becoming an independent adult.
All teens, regardless of whether or not they have been in foster care, crave relationships with others. However, foster children who were removed from the care of their biological parents because of abuse may have trouble learning how to behave appropriately in a social setting. They may also have issues such as depression and anxiety that affect their ability to nurture strong social relationships.
Foster parents and adults who work with teens in foster care are often hesitant to discuss sexual activity, but teaching teens how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy is vital. Foster children who have been sexually abused in the past may need guidance regarding appropriate ways to express sexual feelings. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) foster children are often subjected to bullying and thus have additional concerns that should be addressed.
Foster children without a stable home situation have trouble concentrating on their studies and need extra guidance to make sure they have a plan for supporting themselves after high school. They often think that a bachelor's degree is the only way to be successful and overlook the value of community college certificate programs or on-the-job apprenticeship training.
Learning how to manage money responsibly is an important life skill, but many foster children have never had money of their own. Working at a part-time job is hard when they are often being moved into different placements on short notice. Foster children generally do not have their own bank accounts and lack understanding of basic budgeting concepts. Those who want to go to college find it easy to get swayed into making poor decisions regarding student loans, thus setting themselves up for a lifetime of debt.
Children "age out" of foster care at 18. Many of the children aging out of the system simply do not have the resources to live successfully on their own. Covenant House, a resource for homeless youth, reports that more than one-third of foster children never finish high school because of problems faced after they age out of the system. Even those who do finish high school experience significantly higher rates of health problems, welfare dependency and incarceration. Covenant House is not an organization for former foster children, but the group reports that more than one-third of the people it serves are left homeless after aging out of foster care.