Taking care of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children

The subject of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) has kept us busy this weekend.  Late on Friday evening, the Government wrote to Philip and me telling us that the UK would be taking several hundred young children from the “jungle” camp in Calais, and asking Staffordshire to do its bit. This was specifically for those children and young people with family members in the U.K., but inevitably, the notice that the French government was serious about closing the camp has precipitated an increase in unofficial crossings, some of whom have been found on trucks in Staffordshire.

I tell you this, as it is gives those of you not involved in child protection a flavour of how complex this area is.  These young people appear without warning and present a very different set of problems for our colleagues in Families First than the “normal” problem set of British-resident children. Most charities will focus on giving housing to refugees, but in many ways, this is the easiest part of a complex set.

Many of these young people have lived for extended periods in war zones, without access to proper medical attention, education or even clean drinking water. As a result, they may have physical and mental health needs, as well as needing extra support for schooling and for language if for nothing else. Our normal group of foster carers do great things with Staffordshire children, but are not necessarily best placed in terms of skill sets to offer these young people the support that they need, so we have been looking at how we can attract a group of foster carers who would be better-prepared for this unusual task.  It’s not for the faint-hearted, but we are fortunate in Staffordshire in having a group on consummate professionals in our child protection social workers.  I take my hat off to them.

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