Mythbusting: Looking After a Sanctuary-Seeking Child

One of the types of fostering we offer at FCA is fostering sanctuary-seeking children. These are children and young people who have come to the UK to seek asylum, and, sadly, many of them arrive unaccompanied without the comfort and love of their parents who often need to stay behind.

Fostering an asylum-seeking child can be challenging, but it is also extremely rewarding and unique, as you are able to provide a safe and secure home for a child from a completely different culture, who desperately needs your care.

Who are asylum-seeking children?

The definition of a refugee is someone who: “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”

An asylum seeker is someone who has entered a country and asked for asylum. Until they receive a decision as to whether or not they are a refugee, they are considered an asylum seeker.

The number of asylum applications to the UK has risen greatly since 2010, with 2022 seeing almost 75,000 applications (the highest since 2002). In the year ending September 2022, the UK received 5,152 applications for asylum from unaccompanied child refugees.

At FCA, we have a strong history of working with asylum-seeking children from a plethora of countries and backgrounds, as we believe giving these vulnerable children a loving foster home is a far better alternative to a residential unit or support accommodation. It also gives them the chance to integrate better into society and be a part of a new community in the UK.

The types of childhood trauma asylum-seeking children have experienced might be difficult to process, but by opening your home to them, you can help them begin a healing journey to help them overcome their pasts. This gives them a chance to pave the way to a future full of hope.

Questions about unaccompanied asylum-seeking children answered

Curious about fostering unaccompanied asylum-seeking children? Here are some frequently asked questions to give you a little more understanding.

Is sanctuary-seeking the same as a refugee?

A Sanctuary-seeking, or asylum-seeking, person is someone who claims to be a refugee but whose claims haven’t been evaluated yet. They have potentially applied for asylum (on the grounds that returning to their country would lead to persecution), and are currently waiting for their claim to be evaluated.

How old are the asylum-seeking children?

The majority of asylum-seeking children are aged between 14 and 17 years old, but we also see much younger children coming into our care.

We’ll always work closely with you to ensure you’re happy with the age of the child you foster and will be there to provide the care and support you need whenever you need us.

Where are their parents?

Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are children and young people who are seeking asylum in the UK but who have been separated from their parents. Their parents might have sent them ahead in a desperate attempt to ensure their child’s safety, and some might have sadly been orphaned.

This means that the children are likely afraid and alone, feeling unsure about their future and whether they will see their family back home again. This is why we need amazing foster parents to come forward to care for these vulnerable children and provide a safe and nurturing home.

Will the children speak English?

Some of the children who come into our care speak a little English, and some don’t. However, we will work with you with a translator to help overcome the language barrier, and with your ongoing care and nurturing, the child you foster might start to naturally adopt English as they begin integrating into society. And remember, we’re always here to help whenever you need us.

Will I receive specialist training to care for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children?

Yes! We’ll equip you with ongoing specialist training to help support you as you care for your sanctuary-seeking foster child. You’ll receive information about your child’s current legislation and legal status, as well as an in-depth understanding of their experiences to help you fully empathise with their situation.

We also have specialist training on top of our mandatory training, to give you a greater depth of knowledge as well as theory and practical application.

What support will I receive?

When you foster asylum-seeking children or any child with FCA, you will never be alone. Our tremendous support package means we’ll be there for you whenever you need us, and for any questions or advice you might need. We’re always here to guide you on how you can meet their practical and emotional needs, no matter the time of the day or night.

Not only will you have 24/7 support and guidance from us, but you will also have access to more complementary training courses to help your foster placement go as smoothly as possible.

You will also receive frequent visits and contact from your dedicated and qualified social worker and access to carer support groups.

Will I have to learn about the child’s culture?

Some of the countries we see asylum-seeking children in the UK include Sudan, Iran, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Iraq, Albania, Ethiopia, and Syria.

As such, although it’s not mandatory to learn everything about your child’s culture, you might find it easier to bond with them if you have some knowledge of where they are from and the culture they’ve grown up in. This knowledge and value can also help them integrate into their new life in the UK. We can help you with anything you need to know, so you’ll never be alone and will always provide you with expert guidance.

What trauma might these children have experienced?

When an unaccompanied sanctuary-seeking child first arrives in the UK, they would have travelled long distances to flee from traumatic events such as war, violence, fear, abuse, and, potentially, threats to life.

They’ve left their family and everything they have ever known and have arrived in a country where everything is different than what they’re used to.

As our approach is built around therapeutic fostering, you will work closely with our specialist therapeutic team to provide your foster child with the support they need to begin to heal from their traumatic background. This involves access to therapists, education advisors and other childcare professionals who are providing tailored care to meet the complex needs of your young person.

Make a difference to asylum-seeking children

Fostering asylum-seeking children in the UK can be one of the most rewarding roles you have ever done, as you are providing them with a safe, loving home at a time when they are at their most vulnerable.

If you would like to know more about how to foster asylum-seeking children, or just fostering in general, then please get in touch with our friendly team who will gladly answer any questions you have.

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Whether you’re ready to start your journey or just want to chat to an expert, we're here to talk.

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