Could you give a refugee child a home?

Bath & North East Somerset Council is looking for foster homes for unaccompanied asylum seeking children.

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Councils across England have agreed with the Government to take a set number of children. Bath & North East Somerset Council will take 23 young people over the next two years.

Most of the children will come from Afghanistan, Albania, Iraq and Eritrea with some from Syria. The children will need to be placed in caring foster homes.

Councillor Michael Evans (Conservative, Midsomer Norton North), Cabinet Member for Children’s Services said: “We are all aware of unaccompanied children fleeing from Syria and desperately in need of homes. We as a Council want to do what we can to help some of these young people who have been left traumatised after living in war zones, being trafficked across Europe at the mercy of people smugglers, physically and sexually assaulted, separated from their families and the death and serious injury of family and friends.

“We have already welcomed eight Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) to Bath and North East Somerset and we are committed to providing caring homes for a further 15 children over the next two years. But we need help from existing foster carers and those who are thinking about becoming foster carers.

“As a result of the distress and trauma experienced these young people may display challenging behaviour and so will need foster carers who have the skills needed to help them settle and feel secure to help them live comfortably in the UK and begin to access the skilled help they will need to start to deal with their traumas.”

Most of the asylum seeking young people needing foster homes, are male and aged 14 and over.

Helping to change lives for the better

Samul* came from Albania in 2015. He already spoke some English and quickly improved. He is now about to sit his GCSEs and is predicted As and A*s. He plans to attend sixth form and university as he aspires to work in medicine.

Foster carer, Keith Gittens, said: “A young man from Syria stayed with us until he was 18 in late 2013. He then moved in to his own flat. This was a very rewarding placement and four years later he still visits weekly, for a chat or a meal, he calls my wife his mother in the UK.”

Haydar* is Kurdish. When he arrived in mid-2016 he spoke only a small amount of English and has had difficulties with cultural differences, especially around school behaviour. However, he is a very receptive learner and is starting to adapt his behaviour, he is working on improving his English as he would like to be a mechanic.

The Bath and North East Somerset Virtual School offers extra help to students who are learning English and there is also lots of emotional support available to these young people and their carers. Keith said: “The biggest difficulty is that the boys come to us when they are around 15 to 16 years old. This gives them around three years to leave school speaking English and with enough qualifications to either go to college or get an apprenticeship, some will make it to university.

“Whatever these children aspire to, you as the carer need to put in the work through encouragement and pushing them on to achieve as the window of opportunity is very short. As a carer you’re relied on to support these children and you will get all the rewards you ever wanted from fostering a child.”
Most foster carers have suggested that UASC settle well and are happy to have someone they can rely on and a sense of certainty after so much uncertainty.

Keith added: “When it comes to respecting us and the home, they are always very respectful, they treat my wife as they would their own mother, they carry her shopping bags, do the washing up, take out the rubbish and keep their bedrooms spotless.”

Fostering gives you the chance to see a young person’s progression and help them with a life change. One foster carer said that “fostering Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children is challenging, but really rewarding.”

How you can help improve a child’s life

There has already been a noted push of people wanting to help, with organisations such as Bath Welcomes Refugees showing just how welcoming and caring those in Bath and North East Somerset are.

Anyone interested in caring for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children will need to be a fully assessed foster carer. There is no national or local scheme enabling you to be a short term ‘host’ family; anyone interested in caring for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) needs to be approved as a general foster carer.

Anyone who would like to care for UASC will need to become a foster carer and complete the extra necessary training designed to prepare for and help UASC.

Councillor Evans said: “We hope that anyone who wishes to foster asylum seeking childrenUASC would also be open to fostering B&NES children in Bath and North East Somerset whilst they wait for and prepare for UASC.”

Pete Campbell, Service Manager, Care Outcomes, said: “I’m confident there are many households in this area who could help us meet the challenge to provide homes for young people who no longer have safe, stable and loving homes in their home countries. I would like to invite you to work with us in our Children’s Services Team and our colleagues in education, health and community groups to provide the very best care and opportunities for this group of young people.”

If you would like to find out more about fostering UASC, a special information session is being held on Wednesday 22 February, 6-8pm, at 117 Newbridge Hill, Bath. Please call the Bath & North East Somerset Council Family Placement Team on 01225 394949 to book your place and for more information about fostering and UASC fostering.

*The names have been changed to protect the identities of the children and young people

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