Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking foster carers are making a huge difference in the lives of many children who have arrived in the UK. Often, Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking children have suffered significant trauma as they travel to the UK to escape the impact of war or persecution in their homelands. Sadly, they have often left families who loved them; many paid to get the children out of the country to keep them safe. Subsequently, these children understand the importance of family life, and their trauma is significant.
The Foster Care Co-Operative have foster carers with amazing skills and is successfully providing safe and loving homes to Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking children. These foster carers recognised the barriers and challenges of caring for these children. However, with love and determination, motivated by the desire to make a difference in children’s lives, those barriers and challenges were overcome.
They are driven by a desire to make a difference for Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children and resulted in children living within communities, who in turn, have welcomed and loved them unconditionally.
Jo Killick is the Appointed Manager for the F.C.C; Jo kindly arranged for me to meet these foster carers and, learn of the joy these children bring to their lives…
Foster Care is the difference Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children need.
The F.C.C are a Not-for-Profit, value-driven fostering agency. They currently have eight unaccompanied asylum-seeking children placed with foster carers in Wales. They said, ‘we first heard about UASC (Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children) because there was a ‘sudden influx of information about them on our local news.’
The news reporter said they wanted to find homes for the children in Newport, Wales, where they lived. They also said that each Local Authority had to place UASC children in foster homes; however, some can’t do this because of the children’s ethnicity.’
Rosie is a foster carer for the FCC for over 14 years. She said, ‘I love my job and the Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children are a joy.’
‘I have fostered children from all over the world including Ethiopia, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Many of these children did have complex needs, and yes, they needed a lot of support. But, those needs were not a barrier to me in caring for them.’
‘It is going to be the same for the Ukrainian children; as yet we don’t know what is happening. However, when we do, we’ll adapt to help them.’
The boys had a ‘Child Trafficking Guardian’ to support them.
‘I now foster two boys who came to us as Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children. When they first arrived, they were supported by a Barnardo’s Child Trafficking Guardian which my boys shared. The Child Trafficking Guardians speak with them about the journey they had to get to the UK.’
‘ Many Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children are quiet and withdrawn when they arrive. However, I have noticed how resilient these children are. Their resilience is significant; especially when you consider the trauma they may have experienced, on often, very dangerous journeys.’
‘Independent Guardian Service for separated children, including separated children who are victims or potential victims of human trafficking. The Service is regional, working with PSNI, Trusts, Border Control & Legal Services. Guardians maintain regular contact with child and have a duty to act in the best interests of the child at all times, section 21 (6) Northern Ireland Human Trafficking Exploitation Act 2015’Independent Guardian Service | Barnardo’s (barnardos.org.uk)
Many asylum-seeking children haven’t had poor parenting or lived with abuse.
Rosie said, ‘Unlike many children in foster care, Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children haven’t had poor parenting or lived with abuse from within their family. Their trauma is from the persecution they have in their homeland and being separated from the families they love; more importantly, those who love them back.’
‘It is important to remember that regardless of whether a child was trafficked or smuggled, their journeys are the same. They had to leave their families and homes where they were loved; their trauma is a completely different type of trauma.’
‘ Also, we must remember that the children’s understanding of family life is solid and is filled with love. They are gracious and grateful children who truly appreciate the help and love we give to them.’
‘We also knew there were going to be many challenges to fostering Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking children. However, once we discovered these challenges, and subsequently, met them, the other challenges became easier. The initial main challenge was overcoming language and cultural barriers. Thankfully, we found excellent translation services on our mobile phones and we thank God for Google translate!‘
‘ Mealtimes was another challenge. I remember the first time we put our food on the table; it looked foreign to the children. However, we learned to adapt and soon the boys began to settle in, and, we started to learn about each other.’
Finding the best school was a challenge; we didn’t have many
Muslim children in our community.
‘The school the boys attend is a local Catholic school. When they first arrived, this school had no Muslim children attending, and the children were worried. Maybe the other children would be hostile to them? But, they needn’t have worried because the children were fine, and the children and the school are like a big family. Thankfully, the boys have settled in the school, they have friends and are happy there.’
‘All Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children have ESOL lessons and a foundation in English when they start school, and our boys learned English quite quickly. They have moved on to mainstream lessons but still have 1:1 tuition in English, twice a week.’
‘ Also, it is important to remember that these children have the same rights as any other foster children. The support they have with the F.C.C. is outstanding, and the boys, as all children do, are learning at their own pace.’
‘One of my boys reads English well; however, he can’t speak it. The other one speaks English well and is not so good at reading; but, they’re both getting there, at their own pace.’
The Myths and misconceptions about Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children.
‘ Also, there are also myths and misconceptions around Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children. One myth is that Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children are mainly, older boys. We have to understand that boys aged 14 and above are often sent out of their homeland to stop them from becoming ‘boy soldiers.’ Sadly, their families have often paid others to get them out of the country, to be safe, and, hopefully, once in the UK, they can continue their education.’
‘The families want the boys to get good jobs, in a career they choose. Also, having these jobs will enable them to send money back home, to help them, as they live through the war.’
‘Sadly, many children had their mobiles taken, often by those paid to help them. It is heartbreaking that their families may never know if their children made it safely to the UK. I call them the ‘ Lost Boys.’
‘However, the reality is there are Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking children of all ages who need foster care. Also, the other foster children have a history which enables us to have an understanding of their experiences and needs; however, for UASC, we don’t have this.’
‘It is not unusual for the children to say today’s date when asked when their birthdays are. They don’t know and they don’t understand; they tell you what they have been told to say.’
Foster carers receive a lot of training that includes ‘Child Trafficking’.
Rosie explained,’ foster carers receive a lot of training which includes ‘Child Trafficking, Smuggling and Sexual Exploitation of children. This training is essential because we have to understand what the children have gone through to help them.’
‘Our boys are now thriving. They have adapted well and now have regular contact with their families again. Also, they have a Saturday job because they want to earn money; they deliver leaflets for a fiver, and send the money back home; their families are proud of them.’
‘ I would say if you have thought of fostering Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking children, then get in touch with the Charities and organisations who look after them. I have to say, in all honesty, that these children are lovely; they have enhanced our lives.
‘More importantly, these children integrate well within the community and our family, and they’re not shy. These children are used to being a part of a family, they are really helpful. You never have to ask them to do something, the boys see me doing something and say, ‘let me do it,’ or, ‘I’ll help you.’ They are a joy.’
Recruiting foster carers to meet all the children’s needs is vital.
Jo Killick said, ‘We need to be mindful that we place Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking children with foster carers within the communities who best support their ethnicity, faith and cultural needs. However, if there are barriers, they are not barriers to care, and the young people Rosie and our foster carers care for welcome their care, nurture and support. More importantly, they make the children feel they are a part of a family again.’
Jo added, ‘we continue to work with the Red Cross in supporting children and helping them to locate and reconnect with their families in their homeland.’
Are you the difference that Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children need?
This week is #refugee week, and although I hate hashtag labels, if they help to highlight the need for more foster carers to support these children, I’ll roll with it.
Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children have the same support and rights as all other foster children. However, unlike many other children in foster care, their trauma isn’t from within the home; it’s from a journey that no parent should ever have to send their child on. These children need a safe and loving home with foster carers to help them to recover from trauma; within a community, in which they feel they belong. These foster carers are the difference that Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children need.
To find out more about fostering Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking children with a Not for Profit, please, get in touch on the form below. There’s no cost or commitment, just honest advice and clarity to enable you to take the next step on your fostering journey, and help children to heal from theirs. Can you foster?