The number of refugees in the world has reached the highest level ever recorded, according to figures published by the United Nations (UN). After an increase of five million, the number of people displaced by conflict – refugees, asylum seekers or those displaced internally – was at an estimated 65.3 million by the end of 2015.
The UK has always been a destination of choice for people fleeing war and persecution and the UK has a long history of welcoming and supporting families and children arriving here. Fostering an unaccompanied young person is one way of helping in this crisis. More and more refugees are entering the UK with many of the young people coming from Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. Most are boys aged between 15 and 17, although some are as young as 12. They arrive here alone and are often highly traumatised, with a high proportion suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
In light of the recent refugee crisis more foster placements are needed in particular from backgrounds similar to those of refugee children in order to provide safe and stable homes. Carers will need the resilience to deal with the reality of difference on a daily basis including ethnicity, language, culture and religion. When a child is placed with a foster family there is a matching process which will take into consideration the heritage of the child and how the foster carer would support this and promote the child’s culture, language and identity.
There is no doubt that good foster care can make a positive difference to the lives of many unaccompanied young people. At its best, it provides warm family-like relationships that can be transformative for young people and foster families alike. Fostering is a challenging and worthwhile task and foster carers come to be seen as parent figures, confidantes and companions to the young people they care for.
A foster carer’s experience of looking after an unaccompained young asylum seeker
Foster carers Teresa Griffiths and her husband have been fostering in Kent for 19 years, and for the past 18 months they have been looking after unaccompanied asylum seeking children. Their message for other carers wishing to foster refugee children is:
“We currently look after three Eritrean young people; one girl aged 17, and two boys – one aged 16 the other 5. They arrived after really traumatic journeys and experiences. They were scared, afraid of everything; hunched and withdrawn, thin and nervous. More than anything it struck me how alone they were, they have left behind their families and even been separated from the friends they made on their journey. They are in a strange country and don’t speak the language. They have to learn everything. I see my job as rebuilding their confidence, teaching them to be polite and to smile.”
To read more about Teresa’s story, please click here.
People who wish to foster an unaccompanied asylum seeking child should contact a fostering service in their local area. 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 number 0800 040 7675.
Click here for more information on fostering unaccompanied asylum seeking children.