Feeling Different

Haven of Hope strongly believes in providing teens with “normal” experiences and providing them with age-appropriate freedom and responsibility. Kids need to experience what they have been taught as they begin the transition to adulthood successfully. Successful Girl

Youth in foster care many times express feeling different from their peers. Many of these youth feel they do not get to take part in the activities and opportunities that many teenagers take for granted.

Activities such as a sleepover at a friend’s house, after-school sports, taking a part-time job, or participating in other extracurricular activities can be out of reach for these youth.

This is because of rules that exist in the foster care system or, more commonly, misunderstandings about what is legally appropriate. The result is that many youth in care not only feel different and separate from their peers but they also miss out on crucial opportunities to enjoy activities while building skills and healthy relationships.

All youth, including youth in foster care, want to be treated like “normal” teenagers. While there isn’t one version of “normal,” we know the range of experiences that we want most teens to have. These include things like an opportunity to spend time with friends, participate in activities and school, go on school trips and school events, learn to drive, have an after-school job, and take on household chores.

Providing teens with “normal” experiences is about giving them age-appropriate freedom and responsibility. Most youth need to practice the skills they need for adulthood to truly master them. Foster youth—like all children—also deserve opportunities to participate in community and school activities that they enjoy. These activities help them express their creativity and talents, help them develop supportive and healthy relationships and increase their self-esteem.

While the child welfare system works hard to reduce the time youth spend in foster care, it is crucial to remember the importance of improving the services and opportunities that youth have while they are in care. This is especially true for those who are reaching adulthood. Letting kids be kids is something the system can and must do if youth are to transition to adulthood successfully. (Juvenile Law Center, Philadelphia)