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Blog – Fostering Young Refugees

Children and young people in our social care system come from many different backgrounds, all with unique experiences and histories. In recent years, a growing number young people, referred to as young refugees are arriving in Northern Ireland and are in desperate need of safe and nurturing home environments.

Young refugees are those coming from locations around the world, who arrive into Northern Ireland without a parent, relative, or responsible adult. Most often, they come from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia and are either trafficked into the country or are fleeing from very challenging circumstances, arriving in the UK in search of a more stable and safe home.


Experiences of Young Refugees

Understanding the lived experiences of these young people is to recognise the trauma they have seen. They have often been forced to leave their home countries as a result of war, human trafficking or exploitation, or other dangers to them and their immediate families. They may have experienced persecution based on their religion, their race, their political beliefs, social groups or nationality. They may have lost parents, relatives, or experienced the disappearance of those in their communities. In these traumatic times, young people are often sent ahead to safety before their parents and siblings can leave the country. They face an arduous, bureaucratic, and dangerous journey to Northern Ireland and arrive alone, with no family or relatives to welcome them.

While all children who find themselves in the social care system face immeasurable challenges, young refugees are not only removed from their home but find themselves apart from everything they have ever known, friends, language, food, culture, religion and any familiar faces. It is vital to support them in this transition, to recognise their emotional and cultural needs and to find ways to help them build in confidence and hope.


The Challenges

The experiences of young refugees mean they have often lived with danger and uncertainty for some time, and even in a safe and secure home in Northern Ireland, they do not know if their families are safe or when they might be reunited with them. Some may experience emotional and mental scarring and any further changes can present huge difficulties for them. These stress factors put additional pressure on them and on their foster families. A strange land, with a language the child or young person may not know, unfamiliar faces and foods, all add to a huge burden of worry and anxiety which requires extra compassion, understanding, and patience from the foster family.


What our foster carers and supported lodgings hosts can do

It is crucial that foster carers and supported lodgings hosts provide a solid, safe, and nurturing space for a young person. An atmosphere where the experiences of the young person are recognised but they are not forced to discuss them. A home where their religion, their culture, their language is respected and protected, where their heritage is recognised and where confidence can be rebuilt.

“For me, it’s an opportunity to give back to somebody. To develop and boost them. To ensure they can try and succeed in life. I believe that people have the right to a good education and a good healthcare system”. – Laura, foster carer to a young refugee
“People often think fostering is a really hard job, and they couldn’t do it. But it is often the things most of us take for granted that mean the most to these young people – being able to provide a loving home with a family atmosphere can mean the world to them. Being able to teach practical life skills such as managing finances and cooking is hugely beneficial to a young person trying to establish independence. If you think you would like to become a carer then our advice is to make the call, we did and we don’t regret it.” – Carolyn, supported lodgings host for a young refugee

The impact that a calm, welcoming foster home can make to a young refugee is immeasurable. In the face of the trauma they have experienced and the challenges of being transplanted in a different country, a home that allows them to integrate at their own speed, make friends and learn the language, while also nourishing their roots, will have a hugely positive impact.


Get in touch

If you would like to find out more about fostering a young refugee please get in touch with us for a chat.

Call 0800 0720 137 or fill out our online enquiry form.

Alternatively, you can email your details to: