Foster Refugees and Migrants

Do you live in Waltham Forest, east London or a nearby area? Have you ever considered fostering a child who is a migrant or refugee? Their needs may be quite different to other foster children and they could have gone through some very traumatic experiences, often leaving their parents without wanting to.

It can be a rewarding experience and gives you the opportunity to help them settle into a new country and support them through this difficult time in their life.

Read on to understand more about what it's like fostering a refugee or migrant and what support they might need.

Fostering a child who is a migrant or refugee

A child is an asylum seeker if they have travelled to the UK to flee from danger in their own country for example war or a repressive regime.

Many children and young people make this journey without their parents or other adults they know. If they arrive in the UK and there is nobody they know to take responsibility for them then they will become ‘looked after,’ by a local authority.

If it is established that they have a well-founded fear of persecution, then they have the status of refugees. After they arrive in the UK, they have to make an application to the Home Office.

What are the needs of migrant or refugee children?

They have the same basic needs as any child coming into foster care; a loving household, education, health care, respect, and support for their identity. However, they may have additional, important needs. 

The film below shares the stories of three young people who were migrants or refugees and their Foster Carers.

  • They may have been traumatised by their experiences in their home country, for example by witnessing the death of their parents or others, or their journey to the UK may have been hazardous. Around half have been observed to show high levels of post-traumatic stress symptoms
  • They may speak little or no English, and need support with learning the language
  • They may need help with adjusting to a way of life that is unfamiliar to them, for example relationships between males and females in the home may occur differently in their home country.
  • They may have regular appointments with an immigration lawyer who is assisting their claim for asylum
  • Although they probably will not have any direct contact with their parents, they may be able to speak to them on the phone, or using Skype
  • It may take time to build up trust before they can tell their story
  • They are a long way from their families and may feel isolated particularly if they are not near other members of their community
  • They may need support in recognising and dealing with hostility to asylum seekers both from other young people and from adults in the community.

To find out more about fostering refugees please continue to scroll down this page as well as reading the BBC News article by Mariam Issimdar; Homes for Ukraine: The foster families who have taken in refugees.



Girl on swing

You cannot give a young person that is a refugee 100% of what they will be missing but helping them and giving them support gives you satisfaction as well, it feels good.

Muhammed, Waltham Forest Foster Carer

Who are migrant or refugee children?

Of course every child who comes to the UK as an asylum seeker is an individual with their own story. However, research data provides the following information about this group of people:

  1. They are more likely to be male then female. In England in 2018, 89% of the asylum seekers in care were male and 11% were female
  2. They will probably be teenagers. The migrant and refugee children in care to Waltham Forest are aged between 13 and 17, with only one of them having arrived when they were as young as 10.
  3. More than half of the migrant and refugee children in care to Waltham Forest had been in their placement for over a year with some in the fourth year of their placement. This shows they are a group that settles well in placements
  4. Child asylum seekers come from around the world. The seven countries from which the majority came to the UK are; Eritrea, Sudan, Vietnam, Albania, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq. Waltham Forest has also recently placed young people from Syria, Ethiopia, Libya, Sri Lanka, Morocco and Tunisia.



Can I foster a migrant child? How will I be supported?

Waltham Forest has a specialist fostering worker. He will provide support to carers who are fostering refugees. He carries out assessments of foster carers who are mainly interested in fostering migrant or refugee children and then supports those carers after they have been approved.

This ensures that foster carers for these children get the right support so they can understand these children’s particular issues and meet all their needs.

There is specific training for this group of foster carers and they are able to meet together for support, so they can learn from each other’s experiences.

What are the rewards?

Helping a child to find their feet in a new country and learn about a new way of life can be very rewarding.

Migrant or refugee children can do very well once they settle into their new lives. Research has shown many do well at school and go on to university, and make strong bonds with the families who foster them.

There are also many other benefits all Waltham Forest foster carers can receive.

Girl on swing

She has been like a real mother to me and I consider myself very lucky that I was sent to her home when I came to the UK

Lucan, 16 year old Foster child

Lucan shares his experiences of being an Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child in care in Waltham Forest. 

'My foster carer is a great woman who really has done a lot for me. She has supported me so much, she has motivated me when I have been down and she has helped me to pass all the difficult moments for me during my time in the UK, especially with my application for stay in the UK.

She welcomed me to her family and made me part of it, which made it so much easier for me when I first came to this country. She is very patient with me even though sometimes I do make mistakes.

My foster carer explains everything to me until I understand it. I also like that she has a really good sense of humour. This is one of the reasons we get along so well.

She has been like a real mother to me and I consider myself very lucky that I was sent to her home when I came to the UK.'

Lucan, 16 years old, has gone on to achieve four A-C grades in his A Levels.