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Episode 76: Fostering Teens: 3 Ways To Build Trust In The Early Days

By August 26, 2019January 3rd, 2023Podcast

"[Our teenagers] need to be loved, but what I've learned is they need to be loved with boundaries and rules."

Opening your home to teenagers in foster care can feel scary. Not knowing what they’ve been through or how they will impact your family can stop you from stepping forward. Today’s guest, Colleen Smith, shares her passion for teens and helps us think practically about how to show them they are loved. If you have a teenager in your life or are considering welcoming one in, this is a must-listen episode!


Create a “Teenager Friendly” Home

Children and teenagers, in particular, want to know that they are welcomed in your home. It’s a new space for them, and they want to know if it’s their new space. One way to create a welcoming space for your teen is to fill a basket of items that they might need as well as enjoy on their first night and days to come. Include practical items like personal care products and new socks as well as a special item like a journal or a deck of cards. You might include snacks, bottled water, and a welcome note. Doing this shows your teen that you have been thinking of them and preparing for them.  Colleen said it has helped her communicate, “I see you, and I love you, and I want to love you” to the teens that have come into her home. She says, “I know this isn’t home, but I want you to feel like it’s home. Here is the fridge; you can go and eat whenever.”

Make Your Boundaries and Expectations Clear

In love, set boundaries. Teens are still learning and growing and trying to figure themselves out. Whether they will admit it or not, they need guidance and structure, not free-reign. Without boundaries and rules, expectations are unclear, and there is chaos. Boundaries created in love are for their benefit. Show them you are available and here for them, but let them know you will not smother them. Each teen is different; you have to feel out their personality in those early days. Do they want you around, or do they want you in the background? They need to know you are doing this because you have a heart for THEM.

If your teen is in a relationship, handle this with care. They want to know that you respect them, and yet you can still establish rules for your home. Communicate your expectations, such as when you are not home, their significant other is not allowed in your home. When their significant other does come over, let them know they need to hang out in open spaces. Communicate openly with your teen so that you don’t both end up frustrated by unclear expectations.

Listen Intentionally

In the midst of establishing expectations as well as in ordinary day-to-day conversations, it’s essential to seek first to understand, and listen more than you talk. Teens want relationship, but in order to establish it, they first must know that you care.

It is vital to find the balance between too little communication with too much communication. This is true when it comes to what you tangibly provide for them as well. Colleen shares that it’s been helpful not to give them everything they could ever need or want all at once, even if you have the means to do so. If you do this, their expectations for what you’re going to purchase or find for them are set very high, and when that stops, everything can unravel. Saying no is important in building relationship as well.


We hope this episode has helped you wherever you are on your foster care journey. That’s the goal! If so, will you tell others?

Share this post or rate the podcast on Apple Podcasts (or wherever you listen) and leave us a brief review

Meet Our Guest

Colleen Smith has a passion for teens that was birthed out of her own experience growing up in a dysfunctional family. She now serves in full-time ministry as the co-founder and Director Director of the GEM (Gospel Education Mentoring) Program in East Baltimore. Within this role, she mentors low income, inner city children who feel just like she did when she was a child. She also cares for teenagers in her home  as a foster parent and serves in many other capacities with the homeless and women caught in prostituion.  And she is currently working on her first book, about the importance of intentional living.

Foster Parents, check with your agency to see if listening to this podcast will count toward your foster care training hours!

Special thanks to Resonate Recordings for their knock-it-out-of-the-park podcast production services! If you have a podcast or want to start one, reach out to our friends at Resonate!

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