There are very particular challenges when it comes to providing foster care for unaccompanied and asylum seeking children. Youngsters fleeing war zones from around the world are likely to have suffered a range of traumatic experiences. These are then compounded by separation from their families, who are desperate to get them to safety. For many, there is no alternative as saying where they are can expose them to the risk of imminent injury or death. Why is this happening now? The fact is the world is now in an unprecedented situation in relation to the displacement and movement of peoples. The statistics available up until June 2018 indicate that slightly over 68.5 million people around the world have fled their homes. A significant proportion have left their country of origin altogether and become refugees. What is not usually appreciated, is that it is not the rich western nations who provide sanctuary for the bulk of the world’s refugees, but the poorer countries. The United Nation’s Refugee Agency calculates that eighty five percent of all the refugees around the world are given shelter by developing nations.
There is a whole range of other reasons why young people may choose to leave their homes. For some, it is the quest to find a better life with improved prospects. But many are running from persecution because they are members of a particular religion or ethnic group. In some cases, a child might be sent to the UK – or other European country – because they have a relative already living there. This does not mean they are safe because the journey itself can be long, arduous and full of risks. What can make the whole process even more agonising is often children are separated from their siblings. Once here, there is bureaucracy to be faced – even if they are lucky enough to have a relative already here – this can be deeply unsettling. These are the luckier youngsters for if they can live with a family member, they will at least be in a situation where the culture and language are familiar. For those children who arrive entirely alone and cannot speak the language, their situation is even tougher.
It is the responsibility of the local authority to look after such children. The challenge lies in finding foster carers who; with the right training, can work to meet the needs of such children. These can be considerable: the experience of living daily in life-threatening situations will be emotionally and psychologically damaging. This means that foster carers; apart from familiarising themselves with cultural aspects of the children they care for have also to be skilled in providing therapeutic support.
The burdens on unaccompanied asylum seeking children are even more considerable when it is appreciated they also have the stress of worrying about the family they have left behind.
Unaccompanied asylum seeking minors have legal status derived the Children Act 1989 and the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 in England and Wales. Why it can be rewarding caring for such children is that the research shows that, despite the extreme challenges that have faced, they are often very positive – especially about educational opportunities. This means foster carers will have willing and enthusiastic children keen to do well. And, more generally, many children feel they want to make a positive contribution to the country that has offered them shelter.
There can be issues pertaining to health that are unique to asylum-seeking children. They will not have medical records. This means that many arrive in the country with health problems and developmental delays caused by abuse or neglect. It is also likely many will have not been part of immunisation programmes. This necessitates screening for conditions like T.B, HIV, and Hepatitis B or C. Depending on what part of the world they come from, they may also require screening for malaria, intestinal parasites as well as other tropical diseases not encountered in the UK general population.
One of the most controversial aspects attaching to the care of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children is age. A significant proportion of young people arrive without any paperwork and may not have had access to records in their country of origin. This has meant there have been disputes and some of the methodologies employed to ascertain age have themselves become the subject of argument and disagreement. Doctors have been asked to determine age using techniques that have included ionising radiation and dental examination.
Rainbow fostering are working to improve the situation for asylum-seekers…join us
If you would like to find out more about providing foster care for an asylum seeker, please contact us on 0208 427 3355 or our National Line 0330 311 2845. The problem is pressing, the problem is now…we need people with the commitment and resilience to take on the challenge of foster caring for some of the most vulnerable young people in the world. Ideally, you will want to be trained to foster therapeutically as these children will have suffered trauma. To find out more about becoming a therapeutic foster carer with Rainbow visit our page https://bit.ly/2N4L0Bn
Foster care FAQs
This ranges from training that foster carers need; how long it takes to become a foster carer; types of fostering and foster carer requirements. If you have any query we have not covered, please contact us – we would like very much to hear from you.
One final word!
Remember to visit our news page where foster care stories from around the country – and sometimes the world – are featured: https://bit.ly/2kJHpsO
Blog is written by Will Saunders: Rainbow Fostering – Content Management/Marketing