Fostering a child seeking refuge

There is a shortage of foster carers in Hampshire who can offer care and stability to a child seeking refuge.

These children have often fled war-torn countries, destabilising political developments or disease. They have often travelled hundreds of miles with both their reasons for moving and their journey being traumatic.

Many children seeking refuge have travelled to Hampshire alone and are unfamiliar with the area and often don’t speak English as their first language. Some arrive without proper documentation too.

A foster carer would have a transformative effect on the lives of these vulnerable children.

You would be providing support to children who are coming to terms with their new environment and cultural changes and helping them find a secure and safe place to live and begin to grow.

Fostering isn’t always easy, there are challenges to overcome and difficult days, but it’s also a chance to build new relationships, learn about other cultures and offer stability to a young person at the time it’s needed most. The support and training opportunities provided by Hampshire County Council are excellent, and the peer-to-peer support networks are second to none.

Hampshire is a diverse community and with your care and opening our community, you will not only provide them with a sense of familiarity but also the shelter, protection, stability and love they need.

We’re looking for people who want to help make positive changes, across the county to children from other countries.

Begin your fostering journey today. It’s as easy to start, as opening your front door. Discover other ways you can support us via [email protected] or signing up for our information pack here.

Above all, they are children who need support. Every child who comes to the UK has their own unique story. The child could have fled their country for a number of reasons including war, persecution, or poverty. If they arrive in the UK without an adult to take responsibility for them, they will become cared for by the local authority.

The children in our care have arrived from countries such as Sudan, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Syria, and Iran. Unlike a child from the UK, often very little is known about the background or experiences of a refugee child when they arrive. They may have experienced varying degrees of trauma in their home country, on their journey to the UK, or upon arrival.

Children seeking refuge can come into the care of Hampshire Children’s Services through two different routes:

  • The child is transferred to Hampshire in a planned way through the National Transfer Scheme.
  • The child is found spontaneously within the County.

If you are looking for an opportunity to make a big difference to a young person’s life, we encourage you to consider fostering a refugee child. Although there will be challenges along the way, it can be incredibly rewarding to see a vulnerable child progress and thrive in your care.

Many of our young people have a strong desire to learn and can flourish with the right support. Our foster carers enjoy learning from our children too. Learning about a child’s country, culture, and background can be an enriching experience and building close relationships can have a transformative effect on both the lives of our children and our carers and their families.

Our experienced refugee team has been set up specifically to have responsibility for refugee children in Hampshire. The first four weeks in our care is about assessing and trying to gather as much information as possible. An assessment is carried out to understand the child’s journey, background, any current threats, and how we can best support them.

The social worker assigned to the child also completes a “Distress Toolkit,” which is a measure of the child’s emotional wellbeing and degrees of trauma. This enables us to provide the right kinds of support.

Refugee children have the same needs as any child coming into care – a stable, safe home, education, health care, love, respect, and support for their identity. However, they may have some additional needs, including:

  • They may have experienced trauma in their home country or during their journey to the UK and exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
  • There may be some health needs that need attention such as dentistry or accessing vaccinations as they may not have had access to healthcare in their home country.
  • Some children may speak little English and will need support to learn the language.
  • They may experience feelings of isolation, separation, loss or survivors' guilt.
  • They may need support communicating with family and maintaining connections.
  • They may need support adjusting to life in the UK and understanding a different culture.
  • They may have a mistrust of authorities and may need support in understanding roles and support services.
  • They may have regular appointments with an immigration professional who is assisting them with the asylum process.

Empathy and trust

We are looking for foster carers who can empathise with experiences of separation, loss and bereavement and who can support the child as an individual. Refugee children may find it difficult to trust anyone and tell their story. This may be due to fear of repercussions from the person who facilitated entry to the UK, or fear of endangering their friends and family back home. It is important to go at their pace, be consistent and stable, and build their trust.

Culture, language and religion

It is important that children are supported in maintaining their own language, religion and cultural identity. This could include cultural activities, cooking traditional meals or accessing resources. Every child is unique.

Community, healthcare and education

Foster Carers will need to support the child to integrate into the local community and ensure they can access healthcare and education. Some children may need support to connect with other children who have shared experiences as these friendships can be very important to them.

Asylum process

Alongside caring for the child(ren) on a day-to-day basis, foster carers may also need to support them through the process of applying for permission to stay in the UK. The local authority will support the child to obtain legal advice.

Asylum seeking children will undergo a legal process in which the government decides whether to grant asylum and the right to remain in the UK. As part of the process, the child will take part in a welfare interview, and a series of checks. During this interview, the child will be asked about how they travelled to the UK, their family history and why they have decided to travel here. The child should receive Immigration identification papers, and a blank statement of evidence form, which is the asylum application form. This must be submitted to the Home Office. The child or young person will receive legal representation and translator services.

The age range of children currently in our care is 11-17. When a child arrives in the care of the Local Authority, our refugee team carries out a child assessment to piece together information to determine the child’s age. This includes observing how they talk, behave, and interact with others. This is a robust assessment but if there is significant uncertainty around the child’s age, the local authority will carry out an age assessment. It can be a daunting and difficult experience for children and is therefore not a routine assessment. There is no guaranteed age assessment method.

It is important to be aware that children can sometimes appear older than their real age due to their experiences. Sometimes it takes time for a child to feel safe in their environment and relax, and this can influence age-related behaviors.

Some countries and cultures do not perceive age in the same way that we do in our country. They may not celebrate birthdays in the same way or assign the same importance. This may make it harder to determine a child’s actual age.

Foster carers will receive specialist training to help support them in their vital role of caring for a refugee child. This is in addition to the mandatory training designed to support foster carers throughout their fostering journey.

Our bespoke “Caring for children seeking refuge” course covers topics such as the legal process, planning, language, culture, health, education, and safeguarding.

Carers will feel confident and culturally aware of the child’s background, enabling them to better understand the young person’s needs.

At Fostering Hampshire Children, we are committed to listening to the voice of our children and we want to care for them in partnership with Foster Carers. We want to help you support our children to feel grounded and safe in your home.

Our experienced refugee team has a trauma-informed approach to care and does a lot of work to gain an understanding of the child’s life and how we can best support the child and our foster carers.

In addition to our existing foster carer support package, here is some of the additional support we offer:

  • Specialist refugee team social worker: our social worker team is always available to support and can be contacted through our out of hours helpline. Our social workers will initially visit you weekly. The weekly intensive visits are designed to provide maximum support.
  • Interpreters: our social workers will always come with an interpreter. We can book an interpreter if a carer requests one. We can also provide guidance on useful language translation Apps.
  • Welcome Pack: we provide a welcome pack to every child and can provide sleep packs if a child needs support with sleep.
  • Health: we ensure each child has a health assessment.
  • Clothing and mobile phone allowance: every child receives a clothing and mobile phone allowance.
  • Education: we ensure that the child always has access to education, and we work closely with Virtual School. Virtual School provides advice and support to children and young people 0-19 years who are cared for by a local authority.
  • Religion: we support all children to practice their religion. We can help support access to a local mosque or place of worship and ensure access to a prayer room at school. We can supply a prayer mat and Qur’an if needed.
  • Food and culture: we can help with links to traditional recipes to help the child adjust and feel at home.

We also offer the opportunity to speak to one of our experienced foster carers who has cared for refugee children to help you decide if it is right for you and your family.

Some children may not know where their parents or family are, others may need support to keep connections live. Maintaining contact with family at home can be a huge comfort to our children. The Red Cross may be able to help trace family members. If a child has connections here in the UK, our refugee team will need to risk assess any contact.

What happens when the child turns 18 will depend on their immigration status. If the child in your care is granted asylum or has a valid asylum application pending, upon turning 18 they will be eligible for mainstream government benefits and services under the Children (leaving care) Act 2000. This includes assistance with accommodation, finance, and educational provision.

If the child has no status and is All Rights Exhausted, a Human Rights Act assessment will be carried out to determine the next course of action, which may include the child returning to their country of origin.