Foster carers have many choices when it comes to fostering children and young people. Children coming into the care system are made up of many different groups. One specific category for those interested in fostering children is those who arrive in the UK unaccompanied by a responsible adult. Such young people are termed UASC’s. These youngsters comprise a small but growing number of people who local authorities will be under pressure to find foster homes. But; even though the issues relating to this are daunting, next will be the task of dealing with the psychological state of these children. Many will be fleeing some of the most dangerous parts of the world. they will have witnessed scenes of carnage and devastation. Many will have even lost family members. Foster cares may have to deal with youngsters who are seeming refuge from religious persecution. For some, it may be their sexual orientation that has put them at risk. And such risks can be life-threatening. Homosexuality is illegal in 74 countries. In ten countries, being gay may be punishable by death. This are: Yemen, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates. So the risk can be very real.
Foster carers need to note that on top of these psychological pressure, the rigours of the journey to a European country can be overwhelming. It’s highly likely to have been physically and emotionally arduous. And always with a prevailing sense of danger, risk and betrayal. There will also be a constant reminder of family and friends who have been left behind. It is quite usual for a child or young person to have been chosen as by their family to make the journey. They may have been regarded as being the one family member with the best chance of adapting and settling into a new country. This alone can create an additional burden of responsibility for the considerable sums probably paid to people traffickers by the family. The young person may consequently; as well as the meagre items they can take with them, be carrying the burden of the hopes of an entire family.
It’s difficult to imagine the nightmare world so many asylum seekers are running from. It explains the desperation that drives the extraordinary individual stories of these young people. The UK Border Agency have rescued significant numbers of children from the sea. One youngster arrived in the country with a broken hip which was the result of falling from a lorry. Other people have been found hiding behind crates in the refrigerated compartments of lorries. Some; proving how desperate they are, discovered hanging from the underneath of lorries.
The available figures reveal that most of these young people are males running from countries that are gripped by war or where there may be ethnic, political or religious strife. Mostly they are coming from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Eritrea and Syria.
It takes incredible resilience to even make it to these shores. And then the difficulties to be confronted are far from over. Arriving can feel ambiguous and confusing. The first barrier is likely to be the language itself. Next comes the barrier of completing a claim for asylum: as arduous and mentally exhausting as the physical journey made to get here. there will be a process of detailed questioning. The added pressure will be that the young person may is likely to be aware that most claims are turned down.
Providing foster homes for asylum seekers can place a strain on certain local authorities.
It will come as no surprise that Kent is the local authority bearing most of the brunt of this situation. Quite simply, this is because of its closeness to mainland Europe. It is the location of one of our biggest ports – with all the opportunities for concealment that provides.
The nature of the problem is changing constantly: the government’s own figures indicate that there were 2,168 asylum applications from unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) in the year ending June 2015. This represents an increase of 46% on the previous year’s applications – 1,488. And significantly; notwithstanding a recent increase in UASC applications, they still remain below the peak figure of 3,976 recorded in 2008.
In terms of initial decisions for UASC: there were 1,965 of these in the year that ended June 2015. Nonetheless, this 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.
There are now other statistics that point toward the general situation across the UK. They show the level of strain: one authority recorded as taking in 650% more asylum-seeking children this year compared with the previous year. Providing the right kind of foster homes in these circumstances is hugely challenging for a local authority. Looking at emergency foster care placements: the local authority in Cambridgeshire experienced a rise of over than 500% in asylum-seeking children – within a single year. That represented a huge challenge in finding foster homes.
What is troubling is that fostering services that are already under great strain are being placed under yet more by a government itself under pressure. A recent call has been made for the UK to accept for a further 3,000 asylum-seeking children. This has been given serious consideration by the government but the truth on the ground is, that local authorities do not have the resources to cope. Cambridgeshire, for example, lacks a dedicated asylum team. The business of finding foster carers with the required skills is extremely challenging.
One of the most difficult areas faced by the authorities is in relation to age disputes. It’s common uncommon for some adult asylum applicants to pretend to be children. This is in the hope their claim will be regarded more favourably. There are figures available showing at year ending June 2015 there were 404 applicants were 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 then found to have a date of birth that indicated their over 18 despite – yet claiming to be a child at the time the dispute around their age occurred.
The fostering experience will obviously be very different when a family take in a UASC. On arrival, foster carers are likely see the kind of behaviours associated with trauma, separation and confusion. Foster carers will have received training in relation to trauma, but when a child is nervous and cannot even speak the language, the difficulties can be imagined. Finding a cultural match is obviously ideal but mostly unattainable. This situation will be changing over time as local authorities and IFAs are striving to recruit foster carers from different ethnic backgrounds. Unfortunately, the scale of the the problem has overtaken the resources that are available.
Where foster carers can speak the same language as a UASC, there will be a much greater chance the placement will work. Arriving in a European country like Britain will present cultural norms that appear completely alien to a who might be from the Middle East. There are issues concerning religious observance; including diet that require sensitive management. Where foster carers are able to provide foods that are familiar – which can require research and planning – the rewards can be almost immediate. Demonstrating a willingness to meet a child’s most fundamental needs can provide the means by which a relationship can start to develop.
The link below provides further information on foster care for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children – https://www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/advice-information/looking-after-fostered-child/looking-after-unaccompanied-asylum-seeker-children
Foster a UASC with Rainbow Fostering.
Rainbow encourage foster carers who feel that they might have the skills, experience and resilience to foster a young person who has arrived in the UK and is unaccompanied. We will provide around the clock support and all the additional training necessary. We are recruiting new foster carers ion London, Manchester, Birmingham and Hampshire. Please call us on 020 8427 3355 or 0330 311 2845 if you want to help with this urgent problem.
Visit our dedicated web page for more information – http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/refugees/
And for general information, please visit – http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/our-assessment-process/