Teens in care share experiences in a poem

Being a teen is difficult.

Trying to figure out who you are, where you fit in, hormones flying all over the place.

What about the added layer of being a teen in care? Not only are you trying to figure things out about yourself, but you may also have additional trauma, and the stigma of being a child in care.

Teens in care are troublemakers.

Teens in care only want to wreak havoc.

Teens in care don’t care.

But what if those perceptions are wrong? And what can we do about it? These children need an advocate, stability, and to feel like someone cares.

Our marketing officer Jo has gained valuable insight into the experiences of teens in care:

We brought together a group of young people in care (11+ years old) to share their experience of being fostered. Connor Allen, the former Welsh Children’s Poet Laureate was also invited to help guide our young people in writing a poem about their experiences. There are many misconceptions about young people in care and the aim of the workshop was to allow their voices to be heard.

The teens workshop

The day started with anticipation but a sense of excitement from the young people. After the initial greetings, everyone relaxed a bit and I was surprised at how open and willing these young people were to start sharing their experiences.

I remember thinking to myself, has being in care forced these teens to be more matter of fact, or is that just their personalities regardless? “It is what it is.” floated around a lot during the day. They come up against barriers over and over, and it’s built a resilience in them to ‘just get on with it’. And honestly, some of them seemed much older than their young years.

The insight and frank-ness they showed was truly remarkable, but a big part of me wishes they didn’t have to grow up so quickly.

There were a few things they shared that really stood out to me. They’re sad about separation, particularly from being separated from their siblings. I know that efforts are taken to keep siblings together when they’re fostered, but sometimes it’s just not possible. The other separation they find particularly hard is being separated from the life they had. Regardless of if they’ve been removed from an unsafe environment, a huge change is always tricky to navigate, and you miss the things you were once used to.

It became clear throughout the day that every single one of these teens has such huge potential in life. They were passionate about what they’ve been through, but also positive about doing something to help improve their future. Many of them have interests with real substance, for example politics, equal rights, feminism. They are knowledgeable about the world around them and there was a spark in the room about the good they could do.

Post it notes written by teens noting the things they think are important in the world.
The young people were asked to write down things that they think are important in the world.

The power of written words

Having Connor Allen there on the day was fantastic. He has a unique presence, which was especially helpful with engaging young people throughout a long day! They listened. They wanted to get involved. Positivity. Then we explained about the idea of our teens creating a poem with Connor…

“A poem?!”

I was expecting that response.

But truthfully by the end of the day, their attitude had changed. A poem could be cool, it could be worthwhile doing. It could help communicate in a way that they may not have been able to before.

Teens may struggle with explaining their emotions through talking. In fact, I recently had a chat with one of our foster carers who told me: “I encourage the girl in my care to send me a text message if something is too difficult to say out loud. It bridges that gap of communication in a way that’s more comfortable for her. It works well for us both.”

The power of writing, in whatever form, shouldn’t be underestimated.

The Poem

Fostering and adoption is not the same,
you always think you are to blame.
People think your parents don’t love you,
but most people don’t have a clue.
There’s a stereotype it’s just trouble we make,
and that’s something that we all hate.
There are stories behind our scars,
yet we hide our feelings in jars.
So listen to our stories, respect our choices.
These are our lives, these are our voices.

Unveiling of a Foster Wales mural in Bridgend town centre depicting the words of teenagers in care that was penned in conjunction with former Wales Children’s Poet Laurate Connor Allen.
08.12.23 – Bridgend poem mural written by young people in care

See the poem brought to life by Connor on Youtube.

The Unveiling

It took a while to find and secure an appropriate wall for the poem, but once we did, we had a local graffiti artist Peaceful Progress Graffiti design the mural. It was so exciting getting the wheels in motion and we had an unveiling of the mural on Friday 8th December.

This project wouldn’t have happened without the passion and determination of everyone involved, and it’s remarkable to see what we can achieve working together. From the young people in care, to the children’s teams, foster carers, fostering team, local councillors, Voices From Care Cymru, Connor Allen, Bridgend CBC, Cowshed and many more. I had a sense of pride at the unveiling. I had been a part of this, and I’ve done a small part to help advocate for and encourage these young people in Bridgend.

Even on a grey, rainy day, the mural really stood out. I noticed that pretty much everyone walking past stopped to read the poem, and I genuinely hope it will help people realise that teens in care aren’t all ‘bad’. They matter.

08.12.23 – Unveiling of a Foster Wales mural in Bridgend town centre depicting the words of teenagers in care that was penned in conjunction with former Wales Children’s Poet Laurate Connor Allen.

What our foster carers say about teens in care

Kerry and Sharon have fostered teenagers for 15 years, and have learned a lot along the way.

“The biggest thing, is to treat them like an adult. Come down to their level and give them the respect they deserve, hopefully you’ll get that respect back. It works with most of them. We do set boundaries, we have the main ones which are non-negotiable, and then we’ll work on the others that we can be more flexible with. They have to ease into it, but having some sort of structure is often helpful.”

Could you foster teenagers?

“It’s not our fault we’re in care. We wouldn’t choose this.”

I came away from the day with a realisation, something I already knew but hadn’t consciously thought about for a while:
Teens in care haven’t failed…but they may have been failed. At various points along the way. And it’s our responsibility as a community to help them, encourage them…and to care for them.

Please get in touch if you’re interested in fostering. Even if you aren’t sure yet, it’s worth asking questions and having the conversation. We have many foster carers that would be more than willing to chat with you, as well as our Recruitment Officer Dawn.

Our enquiry form is here, and if you reside outside of Bridgend, visit our Foster Wales website to find your local authority.

Story Time

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