As a seasoned youth worker, Dianne is used to working with difficult teenagers and has often found a way to communicate with even the most violent and hardened teens.

So it wasn’t surprising that the single parent from Wellington was asked to become a foster carer of teenagers 14 years ago by caseworkers at Community Services.

As a seasoned youth worker, Dianne is used to working with difficult teenagers and has often found a way to communicate with even the most violent and hardened teens.

So it wasn’t surprising that the single parent from Wellington was asked to become a foster carer of teenagers 14 years ago by caseworkers at Community Services.

“They think a youth worker has all the answers,” laughs the 54-year-old mother of three grown children.

“Well, I don’t, so I’m often picking the brains of colleagues to get some other strategies and advice, when mine don’t work.”

Dianne is currently fostering two ‘really nice’ teenage boys aged 13 and 15, long term. She loves spending time with them and goes to the younger boy’s sporting events and practice sessions when she can.

She says even the professionals can’t connect with every foster child that comes into their home. “I’ve had kids go off in the police car and think, it didn’t work. It is sad, but it’s real life. I tell other carers, it’s not our fault when this happens. We have tried.”

That said, she’ll tell anyone the benefits of fostering outweigh the challenges, every time. “Often with foster children it’s the small steps forward that really count.

I’m talking about things people in the community wouldn’t really notice – it could be a child who smiles and talks nicely to someone for the first time instead of growling and swearing.

If you can get the first step forward, you can be ready for when they go back two steps. And they will. But you know once they’ve had that first step forward you can get them back to the same good place again.”

She says most troubled teenagers, behind their tough, cynical façade, are really good kids at heart. “It takes two or three months before their real personalities surface. I had one boy who thought he was a Rottweiler but he was just a puppy dog under all that bark and bluster.”

She is proud that some of the most anti-social teens in her care have learned to be social and talk to people in a friendly way. “It’s the little things like this that make you proud.”

Since she looks after older kids, she often stays in touch with them long after the placement ends. One former foster child, now 26 and happily working as a welder, recently invited her to his daughter’s first birthday party.

She advises potential carers to be realistic and not blame themselves if placements don’t work, especially if they take on teenagers. “Every child comes with baggage and no two suitcases are the same.

Remember the anger they may show is not really directed at you, but at their situation and it’s years of anger and frustration coming out. It can take a long time to change.”