Children who arrive in the UK without their parents or carers usually go into the care of their nearest public authority and will often live with approved foster carers when there is no suitable family member or guardian to care for them.
There are many reasons why a child or young person may feel that they are no longer safe in their home country. War, oppression and civil unrest can create situations in which many children may fear for their lives.
Asylum-seeking children may 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 had members of their family ‘disappear’ with no warning or explanation. Some may have 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 per cent were boys.
Fostering unaccompanied asylum-seeking children
Alongside the task of caring for these children on a day-to-day basis, foster carers will also need to support them through the process of applying for permission to stay in the UK, and possibly to prepare for the return. Many unaccompanied children seeking asylum will also have particular emotional, practical, language and cultural needs that their foster carers will have to consider.
We would encourage foster carers who think they might have the skills, experience and willingness to look after a young person who has arrived in the UK unaccompanied to let their fostering service know. Foster carers looking after unaccompanied children will require support to offer them the stability and the help they need; fostering services must ensure that their carers are trained, equipped and supported to deal with the particular challenges of meeting the needs of unaccompanied children.
How we can help
We have worked with the Department for Education and the Refugee Council to develop our new guide, Supporting Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children: information for foster carers.
Relevant UK wide and part of our popular Signpost series, the guide has all the information that foster carers need to care for and advocate on behalf of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. The guide includes an easy to understand flow chart of the asylum process, as well as a table that breaks down each stage and what foster carers need to and can do at each point.
Supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children is available as an eBook for just £2 each or £20 for 50. Printed versions of the guide can also be arranged on request.
Order your copies online or call 0844 335 1892.
Members of The Fostering Network can log in to read our tips on how foster carers can help unaccompanied children.
Our member helplines provide confidential, independent and impartial advice for foster carers in the UK, including those who are fostering, or about to foster, an unaccompanied asylum seeker.
Our members also have exclusive access to our online community where you can log in to share your experience and get advice from other foster carers. The community is a safe and secure area to discuss topics including being a foster carer and looking after a child, as well as advice on finances.