The vast majority of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children who come into the care of Local Authorities will have left their country of origin due to conflict, oppression, or human right abuses. Many will also have undertaken perilous journeys and camped out in horrendous conditions where police forces in Europe regularly rip up tents. They will have travelled at night because it is safer and many experience physical, emotional or sexual exploitation at the hands of traffickers who see these children as nothing more than a way to make money. Understandably, we see many suffering from some form of PTSD or other Mental Health issues, which might not surface for months or even years after they have arrived in this country.
Those who are lucky enough to be placed in foster care (usually these are girls & boys aged 16 or younger) have a more secure start to their new lives. A foster placement offers one to one support and it means that these children are able to very quickly access statutory services such as a GP, dentist, opticians etc.
When a young person arrives in the UK it is expected – and is their right – to access mainstream education in school. But how can a young person manage this on their own, especially when they might not have been to school before, or have nightmares or flashbacks so gets less than two hours sleep a night, could well be illiterate in their own language, or has never travelled on public transport before? Foster carers are an invaluable source of support in this regard.
In this situation, most young people arriving in the Kent area are referred to KRAN whilst an appropriate school place is sought so that they can learn essential skills before they enter a school building. Schools are big, both in terms of student numbers and layout in the UK, and this can be very intimidating especially if you cannot speak English or understand class room etiquette. We at KRAN have worked very closely with foster carers over the past
nineteen years, each understanding the importance of the other in supporting the young person and helping them to settle in the UK whilst they navigate the Asylum System and apply for status.
Young people have described KRAN as “my English family, where help is always here for me.“ Foster carers have said that “KRAN is the first place I ring when I have a new placement. The support they offer is amazing; a real family feeling.“ Sometimes carers have felt that they are isolated and don’t know what they can do to help a young
unaccompanied asylum seeking minor, and have approached KRAN for help, which we can either meet or signpost them to more appropriate organisations.
In our experience those young people who enter foster care are more likely to engage in education and move into further education and /or training as the support is ongoing and they have people who care, listen to them and advocate for them, and - just as any child needs - they find a sense of belonging.
A CASE STUDY FROM A FOSTERING AGENCY
Earlier in the year when the news was showing the worrying scenes of the regime change in Afghanistan, we held a support session for Afghani young people. The session was designed to discuss what was going on back home in Afghanistan, creating a safe space to share any worries or concerns, and was facilitated by a youth support worker from KRAN.
As the youth support worker spoke both Dari and Pashto, the session gave the young people the opportunity to feel comfortable in speaking their own languages to better express themselves. One of our social workers also attended as additional support – he is learning these languages! The session was a great success. The young people enjoyed
talking about their homeland and discussing current events, as well as making some new friends along the way. We hope to run some more sessions in the future.
KRAN was established in 2003 to support refugees and asylum seekers (RAS) in Kent. Over the past years, it has grown to develop several projects in response to the needs of young RAS. Teaching and independent living skills have been delivered for the past ten years through our Learning for Life project in Folkestone and Canterbury to support young people transitioning to college and other vocational pathways.
We have established an advocacy and support project to ensure that young people receive the best support and services as they transition to life in the UK. We continue to raise awareness about the challenges our young people face, develop opportunities to engage with the local community and ensure that their voices are heard.
Gwen Wilkinson has been supporting UASC ‘s for 19 years: [email protected]