Can you reach out to a frightened child?
PUBLISHED: 09:51 27 March 2019 | UPDATED: 10:23 27 March 2019
All they want is a safe home. Can you help the children who have ended up on their own in Norfolk? Could you be a foster carer?
“They’re children first and foremost. Like any other child all they want is a warm loving home and to be made to feel wanted and safe.”
The heartfelt words of Tracy Collins, Interim Head of Fostering and Adoption at Norfolk County Council, talking about the hope for more foster carers to care for asylum-seeking children.
Norfolk is to be responsible for approximately 70 unaccompanied asylum seeking children over the next 12 months, and people prepared to take on the challenge – and many rewards – of being a foster carer are needed.
The asylum seeking children are alone in Great Britain. They may have been sent alone or the adults they started their journey with may not have reached Britain, she explains.
They are mainly aged between 13 and 17, but their ages can be approximate as many of the children don’t know how old they are.
They may have fled from war, civil unrest, oppression or persecution, have seen dreadful tragedies, witnessed abuse or been abused and have arrived with nothing. Some children are so traumatised they cannot speak about what they have seen or suffered. Some have been rescued from human traffickers; some don’t speak a word of English.
But all they want is a loving home and to feel safe, says Tracy.
“We need to give them a sense of safety, to be loved and nurtured,” she adds.
Full training and on-going support for foster carers is always given, whatever the background of the children they are fostering. FULL SUPPORT
There is extensive support for all foster parents whether they are caring for babies, toddlers, older children, teenagers, children with special needs or siblings; and for those considering fostering unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, there is additional bespoke training.
This training ensures the foster carers can feel confident fostering asylum-seeking and refugee children and know that the fostering and adoption team from Norfolk County Council will give all the support or advice needed.
Tracy explains that the training looks at the physical, social and emotional resilience the carers will need and tackles all possible issues, such as facing social prejudice and the vulnerability of these particular children.
“It can take up to six to 12 months for the child to open up and talk about the trauma they have suffered and how they were treated,” says Tracy. This can be difficult-to-hear stories of killings, neglect, emotional trauma, migrant camps, beatings and the loss of their parents, and foster carers will be helped to cope with this themselves while supporting the children.
The children may need the opportunity to connect with their own culture including their mother language and religion.
“Foster carers do not need to be from the same cultural background so long as you support them on their journey,” explains Tracy. FOSTERING ALLOWANCE
There is a fostering allowance and the children are eligible for healthcare, education and support, and the foster carer will have assistance to help the children through the legal process of obtaining their right to stay documents which give them permanent residency in the UK.
Foster carers come from a rich variety of backgrounds. They may be employed, retired, semi retired or considering taking their life in a different direction. They may be disabled, divorced, married, in a relationship, a member of the LGBT community, single or in a partnership.
COULD YOU FOSTER A CHILD?
If people feel they can make a real difference to the life of a child, or children and help them to flourish, they are encouraged to find out more about fostering with the Norfolk Fostering Service.
They need a room for the child, and ideally a room each if they are hoping to have more than one child. They need time, resilience, patience – and a sense of humour.
Would-be foster carers and adoptive parents go through assessments and background checks and, if successful, will have training from the Norfolk County Council teams.
The process typically takes about six months from the initial inquiry to the individual, or couple, getting the go-ahead to foster.
Find out more by calling 01603 306649 or visit www.norfolk.gov.uk/children-and-families/adoption-and-fostering/fostering/children-who-need-fostering
A NORFOLK FOSTER CARER SHARES THEIR STORY
“I remember when she arrived. It was on her 16th birthday. She was so scared and so frightened of the system. Her English was very limited. I was meant to care for her for six days, but we got on so well that somehow we let each other know that we wanted her to remain living with me and my family.
We then started looking round for schools. They kept her a year behind and they started testing her. She was given a level C test, she passed it, then a level B test, she did it again and then she was given the most difficult one and she got the highest marks. Her dream has always been to go to Cambridge. We took her for a taster day and Cambridge fed back that they will be delighted to have her as a student.
When she arrived, I went on a journey myself: learning about her church, asking her to show me her dishes, I used to look up things. I also take her to a church in London and I have learnt about her beliefs.
It is lovely to see her having dreams and getting the support to achieve them all. She is telling us that she wants to learn to drive, so that when she goes to Uni she can come back every weekend, so we are supporting her with this.
The most difficult bit has been to support her during the asylum hearings and we would go down to London for her to attend various appointments. It is still not clear what her future holds, but she is a young person with the greatest potential, with lots of dreams, who works hard to make her dreams come true.
It is very rewarding, I would do it again without thinking. I have learnt a lot about other cultures, about where to find various body and hair products and we have done this together by learning from each other.
I have been really supported by my own social worker, he has been brilliant.”