How foster carers can help unaccompanied children seeking asylum

Foster carers looking after unaccompanied children seeking asylum will need skills and support to be able to offer them the stability and help they need. Read our tips for foster carers on how to help these children.

Provide a secure base

Foster carers and social workers may be providing the first positive stable adult relationship that these young people have experienced for some time. Providing calm and consistent care while understanding that it may take some time for them to come to trust you is vital.

Help them find positive social roles

After-school activities such as sports, art, music or religious groups provide opportunities to make friends. They also offer the chance for the young person to achieve success, build their self-esteem and feel part of the community, which are vital to start the natural healing process.

Understand stories may change

There may be many reasons why young people may have been unable to tell the truth or their whole story when they first arrive, including inability to trust adults, fear of endangering family or friends and traumatic experiences. Try to maintain an attitude of open curiosity, rather than suspicion.

Support their education

Young people may not speak a great deal of English and have a disrupted history of education. But secondary school-aged children are entitled to 25 hours of education or training a week. Young people are often offered English for Speakers of Other Languages courses at colleges but this will not immerse them in an English-speaking community in the same way as school does. You should be given support to find an appropriate school place with extra funding for language support.

Maintain language and cultural identity

Language is part of who we are and young people need to maintain their own language as well as learning English. If they are refused asylum or leave to remain after they turn 18, they need to be able to settle back in their country of origin.

Encourage the natural healing process

Shock, disassociation and trauma may lead to erratic behaviour. Young people may also carry survivor guilt and be scared for those who remain in their country of origin. You can help them find culturally appropriate ways of expressing loss and grief. Formal therapy can help, but there may be hurdles, such as developing trust and language difficulties.

For advice on looking after unaccompanied asylum seeking children, call our helplines in your country.