The United Kingdom has a history of supporting refugees and asylum seekers with a vast number of individuals and families seeking a destination free from war and persecution which is the right of every person. Inevitably with the volume of people making their way by whichever means possible there will be unaccompanied asylum seeking children and young people (UASC).
The media coverage has prompted an increase in the number of people coming forward to offer foster homes to this specific group of vulnerable children and young people. Our experience on Fosterline has seen members of the public expressing their altruistic reasons to offer care for unaccompanied children with the majority wanting to offer a home to babies from Syria and the like. Whereas the UK still requires people to come forward to foster the picture is different from the perception of the people contacting our service.
Every prospective foster carer will need to go through the assessment process, there are no short cuts and all potential foster carers must go through the full assessment which can take between 6 and 8 months.
In reality the unaccompanied children and young people that enter the country seeking asylum tend to be mostly boys aged between 15 and 17 (approximately 75%). They arrive here following much traumatised journeys but often with a high level of independence and a reliance on the groups and friends they have formed during their experiences. For some of these young people foster care may not be the answer to their needs but where it is applicable the foster carer will need the resilience to deal with the differences of ethnicity, language, culture and religion.
Figures from 2015 have reported that over 3,000 UASC were admitted into the country. This has created so called hotspots throughout the country. The local authority where the children and young people first present or become known are the authority that have a duty of care and parental responsibility for that child. We have therefore seen a vast increase in the number of children Kent County Council are responsible for. Kent currently care for almost 900 unaccompanied asylum seeking children due to the channel tunnel and port of Dover but other hotspots are recognised in Northampton and Croydon for instance where there are large truck stops and accommodation for continental heavy goods vehicles.
The government has asked other local authorities to provide support to areas such as Kent on a voluntary basis under a transfer scheme that would take advantage of existing structures such as the regional strategic migration partnership. The Governments’ regional approach would enable local authorities to pool resources, share expertise and benefit from specialist services such as translation and therapeutic support. Local authorities would not only use foster carers within their service but also look to use the provisions of independent fostering agencies.
There have been a number of announcements and news items over the past weeks and months about various initiatives and resettlement schemes to support those most affected by the crisis in Syria and events in the Middle East and North Africa. The Government has committed to the resettling of up to 3,000 over the lifetime of this parliament. There is no doubt that good foster care can make a positive difference to the lives of many unaccompanied young people. There is a need for more foster carers in the country and not just specifically for asylum seeking children. Even if you feel that your skills and abilities do not match those required for these particular young people you can still make a difference in fostering children of other backgrounds.
Fosterline Advisors can explain the processes involved in becoming a foster carer; this is a good first step if you are unsure of what is involved or whether it is right for you. Telephone Fosterline Freephone on 0800 070 7675.
Other ways to help:
Families including young children and babies needing accommodation are generally housed by local authorities or housing association under government sponsored resettlement programmes. Volunteers are allocated to each family to help them find their way around, learn English, access health and education services, and generally acclimatise to life in the UK. If you want to volunteer, contact your local authority for details of programmes in your area.
Organisations working to support refugee families include: