Some of us still think of ourselves as teenagers until we hit our 30th (or 40th!) birthday.
Yet one hero has been taking on responsibilities long before this, after deciding to become a foster parent at the tender age of 25.
Trevor Elliott knew he had the power to support at-risk children by mentoring them, though it was a David and Goliath battle to be taken seriously due to his own youth.
Speaking exclusively to Uspire, Trevor – who received an MBE for his services to vulnerable children last year – told us all about how and why he kickstarted his fostering journey.
Trevor said: “I started working as a football coach and youth worker when I was in my late teens; I realised straight away how much I loved working with young children, giving them a safe environment within which they could flourish.
“Ultimately, I saw the incredible difference that this was making to their lives and how, more widely, doing this would help to reduce youth crime.”
He continued: “I began to notice that while helping the children for four hours a day was rewarding, any kind of progress we made was reset when they went back to their estates or homes, they were becoming products of their damaging environments.”
To address this, Trevor looked into providing care within his home.
In addition to hard graft on the footie field, Trevor also has 10 siblings and eight nieces and nephews which he credits with giving him the experience to connect with young people.
However, Trevor was turned down several times with local authorities citing his age as an issue.
Yet with a three-bedroom house, bought while working as an estate agent, Trevor was determined not to just rent out the spare rooms to professionals but to create a safe haven for children instead.
Persevering, Camden council in London finally approved Trevor as he found someone who believed in him and has never looked back.
Within two weeks, Trevor became a foster dad to two teens on what was initially a short-term basis before their stay was extended due to the progress they made.
Reflecting on the feeling of what happened when he first saw the boys come into his house, Trevor said it was initially overwhelming but beyond fulfilling.
He explained: “I was scared and anxious, one of them didn’t speak English so I didn’t even know what food or drinks he liked. Let alone what activities he enjoyed.
“I soon began developing a relationship with him and we now have an amazing bond.”
This boy has since passed his GCSEs, mastered the English language, obtained his driving licence, and better yet, gone to college to study car mechanics and now has a job.
While this particular story has a happy ending, Trevor is keen to stress that foster kids still face huge disadvantages and need routine to help them flourish.
He said: “Living a stable life is the main challenge for foster children; they tend to have their placements broken down due to their behaviours which gives way to inconsistency.
“That’s not good for a vulnerable child as consistency is key.”
It is estimated 65,000 children in the UK currently live with foster families, which is nearly 80% of the 83,000 young people in care and living away from home.
Speaking about his own foster kids and how he helps them develop healthy coping strategies, Trevor said he encourages them to maintain a structured daily routine to learn and do things that make them happy in an environment within which they don’t feel judged.
Trevor also said he wants to emphasise that fostering isn’t what most people think it is, and that it’s incredibly rewarding and foster parents can learn so much from it.
He concluded: “People often assume that foster parents need to be older, with children of their own and perhaps some kind of educational experience. That’s not the case.
“You simply need to be able to create a safe home for a child and show them the love, kindness and consideration that they need.
“In a sense, young people are the best foster parent candidates because vulnerable children and teens can relate to them – we really need to dispel this stereotype.”
For more info on fostering, click here: Foster Parenting.
To follow Trevor’s journey, click here: Trevor Elliot MBE.