According to a recent report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation
, a philanthropic organization that seeks to help children and young people develop a brighter future, only 58% of teens in foster care are placed with families, as opposed to 95% of kids (ages 12 and under). Teens have a harder time finding foster homes, and once they turn 18 will age out of the system, leading to other challenges such as finding a job and a place to live.
Alabama-based Brittany Burcham has gone viral on TikTok for her clever videos that share what it’s like to foster teens. She was recently featured on the Nick Cannon Show for her work as an emergency teen foster parent. Avon got connected to Brittany through the show, and donated $10,000 worth of products to the teen foster closet she supports in her county in Alabama.
We spoke to Brittany about how she got into fostering, what she loves most about it, and being recognized for her work.
What inspired you to start fostering? How long have you been doing it?
I was always interested in foster care. When I was living in Washington, D.C., I Googled how to help kids in foster care without fostering, because I lived in a studio apartment. So I became a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) and was assigned to a 13-year-old girl in foster care and it totally changed my outlook on teens and foster care and the impact you can have. I've been an emergency and respite foster parent for teens for 2.5 years now and have cared for nearly 50 kids in that time.
Teenagers are the one age group least likely to be placed in a traditional foster home. There are a lot of assumptions about teens that are just totally untrue. I've found that teens are so much more than what they are often painted as. Teenagers are able to communicate their needs, they are so funny and interesting and creative, and they truly appreciate having an adult who cares. Since I've started advocating for more foster families for teens, I've loved the messages I've got telling me "I'm so glad we opened our home to teens, our newest foster is amazing and we can't imagine how we didn't say yes to teens sooner."
You just got married—congratulations! How will this impact your fostering in the future?
Thank you! Yes, I started this journey as a single 33-year-old woman and to meet someone who wasn't scared off by the fact that I fostered teenagers has been such a gift. Right now, my foster license is on pause while we have my husband go through training and license our new home together. It will certainly be different fostering as a couple rather than as a single woman but I think it'll be great to have more support.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering fostering?
The most important thing you can do is become trauma-informed. Every child coming into foster care has experienced some level of trauma, and losing their families is certainly traumatic. So, understanding behaviors and how best to support children who are grieving or hurting will be the best thing you can do. I read every book I could before I became a foster parent and I joined support groups online and learned and listened and it's made me a better foster parent.
Tell me about the Nick Cannon show and what it was like.
It was such an incredible experience not only to talk about foster care, but to be surprised with so many things! I did not know my former foster daughter would pop up on the screen and I was absolutely shocked when the curtains opened and I saw the donations for my foster closet. The team at the show were so kind and I loved being able to talk with Nick about his experience with his grandmother being a foster parent as well. It just shows that foster care touches so many lives and we can all play a part in supporting the kids who are in foster care. Watch the interview with Nick Cannon and Brittany Burcham
What are some of your favorite products from the Avon donation?
I absolutely loved the pajamas and slippers and so did the girls who received them! Pajamas are not often the thing a child thinks about when they are packing their belongings to leave home, so being able to open a brand new pair was so special. And the sparkle slippers were a hit for the teen girls! I also love being able to give them the lotions and the body washes, teen girls LOVE all the smells and getting to choose which they love most.