Foster care considerations for asylum-seeking children

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Foster care considerations for asylum-seeking children

Foster carers for UASC

Foster parents to care for UASC

Foster carers have different choices when it comes to fostering children. In 2020 the children and young people coming into the care system comprises many different groups. A very specific category – often in the news – are those who arrive in the UK unaccompanied by a responsible adult. To those involved in fostering provision, such young people are termed UASC. 

These youngsters comprise a small but expanding number of individuals the local authorities will need to find foster homes for. This is challenging enough but next will be the task of dealing with the psychological issues many of these children will have. Most will be fleeing extremely dangerous parts of the world. They will be traumatised having witnessed scenes of carnage and devastation. Many will have lost family members. This means foster carers will be expected to deal with youngsters who confused, lost and disoriented. For some, it could be their sexual orientation that has endangered them. Homosexuality is illegal in around seventy-four countries. In ten countries, being LGBT+ may be punishable by death. Countries, where this is a particular risk are  Yemen, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates.

The rigours of the journey to a European country for a UASC can be overwhelming. It will inevitably have been physically and emotionally arduous. And always the ever-present sense of danger, risk, and betrayal. It’s not uncommon for a child to have been chosen by their family to make the hazardous journey to Europe. They may have been thought of as being the only family member with the best chance of escape. And then adapting and settling into a new country. This can be an additional burden of responsibility for a child. As will be the considerable sums likely needed to be paid to people traffickers. The young person may consequently be carrying the burden of the hopes of an entire family.

It’s almost impossible to imagine the nightmare world inhabited by so many asylum seekers as they escape. It explains the urgent desperation that creates the extraordinary individual stories of these youngsters. As has been widely reported in the media, the UK Border Agency have been rescuing many of these children from the sea. One youngster arrived in the UK with a broken hip which was caused by falling from the back of a lorry. Other young people have been found hiding away behind crates in the refrigerated compartments of vehicles. Some; proving how desperate they are, have been discovered suspended from the underneath of lorries.

Foster care under pressure.

Providing foster homes for asylum seekers can place a strain on certain local authorities.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that Kent is the LA which has come under the most pressure. It’s because of its proximity to mainland Europe. And is also the location of one of our biggest ports.

Fostering: scaling the problem. 

The nature of this problem facing the government is changing constantly. The government’s figures reveal there were 2,168 asylum applications from unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) in the year ending June 2015. This is an increase of 46% on the previous year’s applications which stood at 1,488. And what is certainly significant – despite a recent increase in UASC applications, they still remain below the peak figure of 3,976. This was recorded in 2008.

In terms of initial decisions for UASC: there were 1,965 of these in the year that ended June 2015. Despite this, the figure is still 154% higher than in the previous year – 774 initial decisions. Regarded overall, the proportion of decisions resulting in asylum actually being granted, reduced from 72% for the year ending 2014, to 67% in the year ending June 2015.

Monitoring the statistics.

There are now more statistics being gathered that point toward the situation right across the UK. They indicate a level of strain: one local authority was recorded as taking in 650% more asylum-seeking children this year compared with the previous year. Providing the right kind of foster homes in circumstances like these is hugely challenging for a council. In relation to emergency placements, Cambridgeshire LA saw a rise of over than 500% in asylum-seeking children. This was in the period of a single year. 

The issue of establishing a young person’s age.

A particularly difficult task faced by the local authorities is in relation to age disputes. It’s common for some adult asylum applicants to pretend they are children – clearly, in the hope, their claim will be looked at more favourably. Figures available show at year ending June 2015, there were 404 applicants in dispute over their age – with 488 recorded as having an age assessment. Of those who completed an age assessment at year-end June 2015, 58% were discovered to have a date of birth that indicated they’re being over 18 despite – yet claiming to be a child at the time the dispute around their age took place.  

When a family takes in a UASC their fostering experience will be markedly different. Foster carers are likely to witness the kind of behaviours related to trauma, separation – as well as general confusion. Foster carers will almost certainly have received training in relation to trauma, but when a child is nervous and cannot even speak the language, the difficulties can only be imagined. Finding a cultural match is obviously ideal but very difficult to achieve. There simply aren’t enough BAME foster carers available. This situation will, however, be changing the future as local authorities and IFAs strive to recruit foster carers from different ethnic backgrounds. When foster carers can speak the same language as a UASC, there will be a much greater chance the placement will be secure and stable. 

Arriving in a European country like Britain presents cultural norms that will be completely alien to a child who might be from the Middle East. There are a great many issues: these can concern religious observance; diet and language – all will require sensitive management. The problems are likely to continue into the long-term as almost half of the refugees entering the UK are children.

The link below provides further information on foster care for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children –

Fostering a UASC child or young person with Rainbow.

Rainbow encourage foster carers who feel that they might have the skills, experience and resilience to an unaccompanied asylum seeker. We provide around the clock support and all the additional training that will be necessary. 

We are recruiting new foster carers in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Hampshire. Please call us on 020 8427 3355 or use our National Line 0330 311 2845 if you want to play a part in helping with this urgent problem. You can visit our dedicated web page on refugees for more information –

And for general information about fostering please visit –

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