Fostering teenagers: What’s it really like?

Tuesday 31 May 2022

Mandy* was no stranger to the challenges teenagers in care face. After years of working in the social sector, she stepped up to foster and Raine* became part of her life

Mandy shines a light on what teenagers like Raine need during their time in care.

Moving foster homes

Raine lived with her previous foster carer for ten years. At 16, her foster carers gave notice and the local authorities tried to find her a new foster family.

Despite their efforts, no local authority carers came forward. They approached Action for Children who identified Mandy as a match for Raine.

Mandy reflected, “When the social worker contacted me, she explained that Raine had a lot of emotional difficulties. Her carers had decided they could no longer support her.”

Children who are at higher risk of exploitation and self-harm need specialist support. Because Action for Children offer therapeutic fostering, the necessary training and support was available for Mandy.

Teenage girl sitting outdoors on the staircase covering her head with sweatshirt hood

Raine's existing foster carer could no longer care for her.

The support of other services

"I remember there were concerns about self-harm and low self-esteem. She was lovely but suffering from depression. She needed the support of other agencies, like CAMHS (Child and Mental Health Services).”

The first six months were difficult for Raine. But once she settled in, she started to invite her friends around. Raine got a part-time job and was engaging well with school.

“My way of supporting her was by listening and working with agencies like CAMHS. I would support Raine emotionally, and by providing stability.

“Developing Raine’s independence and trust was so important while she was with me. I’d give her pocket money and help her manage it so that she became more independent with her finances.”

Happy teenager with colourful hair

"Developing Raine’s independence and trust was so important while she was with me." Mandy

Fostering offers normal family life

This is the first time I've sat and eaten around a table before.


For many children in care, fostering offers normal family life.

Mandy can recall a time when she realised the kind of small things Raine had missed out on. "We we're sitting at the dining table one day and Raine said to me 'This is the first time I've sat and eaten around a table before'.

“When she moved on, she cried so much, but she was leaving so much more stable and able. Raine went on to get an apprenticeship

“She thanked me, and I said, you don’t need to do that. She stayed with me for 18 months in total and it was marvellous to see her change over that time.”

Who can foster?

The majority of young people in care are teenagers. We urgently need carers who’ll help young people develop confidence and independence.

Provide the safe and happy home they deserve by fostering.

*The names in this story have been changed to protect the identity of the child and carer.