Could you provide a home for a young refugee?
HSC NI Foster Care is appealing for more foster carers and supported lodgings hosts who can provide homes to young refugees who arrive in Northern Ireland without a parent or carer.
In the past year, more than 60 young refugees were received into care, the highest number on record, and it is anticipated that this will rise further.
The majority of young refugees arriving without family are teenagers aged 14-17 and many would like to be cared for in a family setting. Young refugees come from a range of countries such as Eritrea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Sudan. In many cases, these young people are fleeing danger and war, they may have been victims of trafficking or exploitation, or their parent or carer has disappeared. Young refugees need a safe and welcoming home environment where they will receive practical and emotional support and where they can integrate into local communities.
Foster carers look after children of all ages, whereas supported lodgings is a type of semi-independent accommodation where a young person aged 16 or over lives in the home of a host family or individual.
Health Minister Robin Swann, who is supporting the public appeal said: “We can only imagine how traumatic it is for children and young people who arrive in Northern Ireland with no family. It is vital that we increase the numbers of foster carers and supported lodgings hosts available so that we can ensure that the young people in these circumstances get the stability and care they deserve.
“There is no such thing as a typical carer – foster carers and supported lodgings hosts come from all walks of life. We would encourage anyone who thinks they can open their home to a child or young person to come forward and register their interest.”
The Health Minister recently met Lynsay Lynch, a mother of three who has been fostering a young refugee woman for two years. Lynsay said: “Lola* (*not her real name) arrived in Northern Ireland with no parents or adults to care for her in the hope of finding a better life. I was more than happy to open our home to her.
“It was a new experience for Lola and our family. In the early days finding ways to communicate was a priority as Lola needed time to grasp an understanding of English.
“Two years on she is a vibrant young lady, who appreciates being part of our family, equally she has given so much to us as well. We have learnt about her birth country, culture and food, which are very important to her.”
Catherine Cassidy, Deputy Director, Health & Social Care Board said: “Young refugees living with foster carers or supported lodgings hosts are thriving having had opportunities to experience family life, education, and sports within the local community.
“It is right that we do all we can to protect young refugees by finding a safe home where they can feel cared for and supported to reach their full potential.”
Najibullah, now 18, arrived in Northern Ireland in September 2019. He said: “I appreciate all the support and opportunities I have received here which has enabled me to study engineering and work as an interpreter.”
Una Carragher, Principal social worker, HSC NI Foster Care said: “HSC NI Foster Care greatly appreciates Lynsay and all families who have come forward to care for young refugees. Najibullah echos the appreciation we hear from the young refugees who have arrived here in Northern Ireland. They appreciate the welcome, care and support they have received. We want to assure anyone who comes forward to care for these young people that we will give them full training and support. We would particularly welcome families from the numerous ethnic minority communities across Northern Ireland. Please get in touch with us if you have any questions. We will be delighted to have a chat with you.”
Enquiries are welcome from people from any race, religion, language, culture, gender, disability, age or sexual orientation.
For more information on becoming a foster carer or supported lodgings host, contact HSC NI Foster Care on 0800 0720 137 or visit adoptionandfostercare.hscni.net/young-refugees/
Pictured launching the campaign with Health Minster Robin Swann are Najibullah, now 18 who arrived in Northern Ireland in September 2019 and foster carer Lynsay Lynch.