Experience of an unaccompanied minor travelling to the UK:
“My father paid an acquaintance some money so that he could help me get to the UK”
I don’t want to go and leave my family. Things are really bad in the country. Everyone is being killed and everywhere there is lots of screaming. People are crying for help. In the early hours of the morning I had to leave with father to meet this strange looking man and I did not get a chance to say goodbye to my mother or sister.
I cannot take anything with me. I glanced at everyone for one last time and felt like my whole world was falling apart and no one to listen to me
We reach a strange place and the man is waiting for us with lots of other men and young people like me. father handed him a pouch with money and said his last goodbye to me.
I am in a lorry with all these strangers and I am scared and I cry out but no one pays attention. Where am I going? I’m hungry and haven’t eaten for days.
It’s like a nightmare and it’s been months and I’m missing my family a lot and I don’t know when this is going to end”
Advice from Amber, Placement Manager, to anyone who is thinking of fostering an unaccompanied minor:
There are many reasons why a child or young person may feel that they are no longer safe in their home country. It could be due to War, oppression and civil unrest and this can create situations and a fear of lives.
Asylum Seeking children have experienced persecution for their beliefs or because of their ethnic or social group.
Some may have seen adults they loved murdered, beaten tortured or raped; others may have their members of family disappeared without any warning or explanation.
Some come from a country where they would have been forced to fight as a child soldier if they remained.
The largest number of unaccompanied children, at the moment, come from Albania, followed by Eritrea and Afghanistan. Syria is in fourth place, with numbers increasing fast. In 2014, 90 per cent of unaccompanied children were over 14, and 88 percent were boys.
Alongside the task of caring for these children on a day to day basis, foster cares will also need to support them through the process of applying for permission to stay in the UK and possibly to prepare for return.
Key points for foster carers to consider when thinking about fostering unaccompanied and asylum seeking children
- Foster carers looking after unaccompanied children will require support from their fostering team so that they can offer stability and suitable care to these young people and children.
- Fostering services must provide their carers training in order to highlight the needs of unaccompanied children and the roles and responsibilities of the foster carer
- Foster carers should make themselves culturally aware of the children’s backgrounds in order to understand their needs and issues.
- Unaccompanied children are potentially mentally and emotionally scarred and need a lot of therapeutic support alongside nurturing and caring.
- It is important for foster carers to find the right education provision for unaccompanied children and to help them to achieve and promote learning
- Foster carers must support unaccompanied children to build on their self-esteem and friendships
- Foster carers are required to provide a living space that provides safety and support
- Unaccompanied and asylum seeking children need a place where their experiences are recognized but they are not pressured to talk about them if they do not want to.
- Unaccompanied children who have come from abroad need to be placed somewhere that is appropriate in terms of language, culture and religion.
- Some of the unaccompanied children that we have placed have described positive experiences of a foster carer if the children had felt a sense of belonging and inclusion in their foster family
- Fostering teams and carers need to consider long term planning for life in the UK if the children receive indefinite leave to remain.
- It’s important to consider return planning to prepare young people’s needs while they are in the UK without a longer term immigration status.
- Young people seeking asylum need support in accessing good quality legal representation for their asylum applications
“When I was approved as a foster carer my first placement was an unaccompanied minor from Albania. I was anxious and excited at the same time, I was still working part-time in a primary school and was wondering how I would juggle my work around fostering as I did not want to leave my job just in case fostering did not work out for me.
When my unaccompanied minor from Albania arrived with his social worker he arrived looking tired and having not bathed for weeks, he also had no extra clothes other than the dirty clothes he travelled in, I felt very sad seeing him like this and wanted to buy him clothes straight away. The social worker explained to me the terrible journey and experience he had endured during his journey on a lorry here including not eating well or sleeping well and having very little understanding of the English language.
I managed to use the online Google translator to communicate with him and explain what was going to be discussed with the social worker, such as basic house rules. When he first arrived, he had no friends and family support system which in turn meant he had no-one to turn to which had an impact on his mental and emotional welfare. He arrived not knowing what to expect, what sort of family he would be living with and what is expected of him, which was very overwhelming for him at first. I enrolled him in suitable college so he could make friends and study with children his age.
The looked after child had all his health checks and appointments made by me to make sure the child has no medical concerns and that all his immunisations are up to date. I also supported the looked after child with all his home office and solicitor appointments to make sure he applied for the appropriate immigration status and helped him to understand his legal rights.
My Albanian foster child stayed with me for one and a half years. He settled in comfortably and socialised well with my family and relatives, he picked up the English language and learnt about different cultures, we learnt a lot from his culture too. I enjoyed having him in my house and half way through fostering I left my part-time job and have continued fostering. I look forward to what the future holds, and helping the young children that are in need.”