Key Points – Migrant children in foster care

  1.  Separated children arrive into foster care managing difficult experiences and multiple pressures in their journey toward settlement. These include displacement, loss of family, abuse and persecution. They then have to manage the multiple, and sometimes conflicting, ways they are processed by the state where immigration concerns can take precedence over access to welfare.
  2.  These complex and competing forces mean that foster carers often need to accept uncertainty, ambiguity, mistrust and silence as they care for separated teenagers. Asylum-seeking young people live with uncertainty about their futures and may have multiple reasons not to discuss their lives fully until they are sure they can trust the adults around them. Foster carers need adequate support in order to be patient and accepting in these contexts
  3.  The strength of good foster care is its ability to help reconstruct a sense of ‘ordinary’ life for separated children. Journeys toward settlement include achieving safety, belonging and success, and foster care can be a crucial support in each phase. Although not all separated children want to be in foster care, the majority who are find it a positive experience and value being included as one of the family.
  4.  Separated children need access to relationships that can offer friendship and stability, as well as professional support. Swedish research suggests there is value in mapping whether unaccompanied young people have ‘close’ and ‘professional’ relationships, and considering the role of the state in facilitating both. This might include clarifying the role of foster carers, voluntary agencies, and potentially guardians.
  5.  Foster carers need support to understand and respond to the needs of separated young people. Most carers of separated teenagers are very positive about their work, but also recognise its challenges, and do not necessarily feel equipped to respond. There is potential for training, mentoring, and peer support to address some of these challenges.
  6.  The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is a good framework for constructing support for separated young people, because it recognises children’s needs across legal, welfare, and social domains.
  7.  The seminar highlighted a number of areas for further consideration, including clarifying the types of relationships/support separated young people need, and the role of foster care for post-16/18 support for independence

Read the full report of the fourth seminar, Migrant Children in foster care, 11 November 2014.

This seminar is part of the ESRC seminar series, Teenagers in foster care: the critical role of carers and other adults.