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.
Many have experienced significant trauma which forced them to flee from their home, including living through war; imprisonment and in some cases torture; being the victims of physical and/or sexual violence. 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.
Unaccompanied children who arrive in the UK 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.
Leeds City Council have braved up and taken on the task to home some 50 vulnerable unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC), many of whom come from a variety of countries, ethnicities, religions and ages.
The council is urgently seeking foster placements, supported lodgings, rent a room placements or in supported semi-independent living placements.
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.
Leeds couple Imtiaz and Jabeen Khan, who have recently taken on a 15-year-old asylum seeking girl, are encouraging Asian families to consider offering a safe, loving home to UASC.
The couple married for 29-years, has three children of their own and state they believe it’s made them more grounded and compassionate young people as they’ve learnt first-hand how unfortunate and tragic some children’s lives can be.
They became foster carers 15 years ago after Imtiaz’s wife suggested they should look at offering their home to vulnerable children.
“The first child that we undertook the responsibility to look after was a non-Asian 11-year-old-girl in 2003. The child was suffering from neglect and had a mother who was a prostitute from a home with a history of domestic violence,” says Imtiaz.
“Since then we have looked after 14 children who had varying reasons for being vulnerable and needed safety and security with people who could care for them in a manner they needed and wanted.”
Talking about providing a temporary home to asylum seeking children, Imtiaz adds: “Some children seeking asylum, have made dangerous journeys from their own war-ravaged countries desperately seeking safety.
“These children have a language barrier to overcome, some have health issues that need to be addressed immediately and do not have any family or friends for support.
“Looking after these children and able to give some help in a positive way is very rewarding in itself and see those children making progress in their lives is even better.
“I would recommend fostering to people who have the space in their home and feel they want to help children who need help and be the positive influence in these children’s lives. It is not always an easy task but it is an extremely rewarding one knowing you can make a difference in helping a child overcome what ever trauma that happened in their lives.”
Leeds City Council, amongst many others, has agreed to home vulnerable, unaccompanied asylum seeking children. There are many different types of fostering however and one may suit your lifestyle. For more information visit www.foster4leeds.co.uk or you can attend the monthly drop-in events around the city where more questions can be answered, or you can call on 0113 378 3538.
Fostering is when children aged 0-18 years old aren’t able to come with their birth families and are placed in a safe and loving home.
They currently support hundreds of fostering families and are always looking for more. The council matches foster carers with children who are in need, and provide guidance throughout the entire process, from application to placement of a child.
Fostering is not easy and there will be challenges but we’ll provide fantastic training and support groups so you’ll be fully prepared.
In return you’ll receive a fee and allowance for every child placed with you plus expenses. Assessments last 3-6 months.
Supported lodging providers normally care for young people aged 16. Supported lodgings is a less intensive commitment and you only have to offer young people independence training of up to 15 hours per week.
Assessments for this route normally take 5 months and are far less detailed than fostering assessments would be. You would be paid allowances and expenses and are provided with all the training needed to support a young person along with support groups and your own social work assistant for advice.
Rent a Room
Rent a room providers are people and families who offer a spare bedroom and access to meals for unaccompanied asylum seeker children. They are not expected to provide independence training or dedicate specific time with the young person (although encouraged if able to). These placements would only be offered to unaccompanied asylum seeker children aged 16 plus and are judged to be mostly independent.
Assessments last between 2-3 months and in addition to support accessible through groups and a social work assistant you will be provided with allowances and expenses.