Three decades (and counting!) of caring for teenagers’

Viv, 77 and husband Ken, 84 from Kent, have been providing short break foster care since the 1980s. Welcoming and supporting so many young people has not only had a positive impact on the children they care for, but also the couple’s two birth daughters. Aged 49 and 51, Viv and Ken’s daughters were so inspired by the difference their parents were making to young people’s lives that they are now full-time foster carers too.

The couple not only take pride in caring for teenagers but also value learning from them too; “we’ve had young people stay with us from all over the world. You have to be mindful of their cultural needs. For example, if a young person is Muslim, and would like to go, we’ll drive them over to the mosque in Maidstone.” Ken adds “it’s a good experience for us… we learn as much from them as they do from us.”

And when asked about what advice they have for would-be foster carers, Ken says “we were all teenagers ourselves once, and we’ve all done silly things. It’s important to set boundaries. You need to treat them the same way as you would your own children – nothing special, just as kids.”

Viv continues, “There isn’t a formula for how to handle teenagers; with teenagers it’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it. You’ve got to have a joke with things sometimes, but also let them know that you are a bit serious.”

For some young people, life can get tough and when it does they need a caring adult to believe in them. By fostering, you could provide that support.