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A Reason to Foster – Helping Young Asylum Seekers Settle and Thrive – Lynda and Colin’s Story

‘Don’t sweat the small stuff,’ advises Lynda who’s been a foster carer with the National Fostering Agency (NFA), part of National Fostering Group in Bristol since 2008. “Close the door on untidy bedrooms and don’t worry about it, there are more important things.”

Open Day

Lynda and her partner, Colin applied to foster in 2008 after Lynda saw an ad for an Open Day with the NFA and went along. She says:

Fostering wasn’t something I’d always wanted to do, not like some people. But Colin has a son, who was coming up to 15 at the time, and I have two nephews and we’d always loved spending time with the three boys. We used to take them on holiday with us when they were growing up. When I saw the ad I thought ‘I could do that’ so I went along to find out more. I talked to a really nice lady who later became my supervising social worker.”

Lynda and Colin went to panel in December 2008 and their first foster child – a 14-year-old boy from Afghanistan – came to live with them in January 2009. His previous foster carer spoke Urdu and he was keen to learn English. The boy was passionate about cricket and was soon welcomed by the local cricket team and settled in well. He stayed with Lynda and Colin for 12 years, moving out in 2021 to live independently in a flat just around the corner. In 2015, he graduated with a degree in law. 

Asylum seekers

Throughout their time as foster carers, Lynda and Colin have looked after boys, many of whom have been young asylum seekers. One young person, who came to them in 2014, is hoping to go to the University of the West of England this year and will be Staying Put with his foster family.

Big adjustments

He has come a long way, as Lynda explains:

“At first it can be hard for young asylum seekers to adjust to full-time education. The young person who came from Afghanistan hadn’t been to school at all so it is a big adjustment to make. Also many asylum seekers suffer from PTSD and nightmares and it can take a while for them to settle.”

Despite these challenges, many of their former foster children have gone on to higher education. Lynda and Colin recently attended their first foster child’s graduation and another young man, of British Arab descent, who came to them originally for respite care, stayed until the age of 19 when he went to study at Cambridge University. Others have built successful careers, including a former asylum seeker from Syria who went on to establish his own business as a barber.

Staying Put

Currently Lynda and Colin have five young people in their care, four of whom are Staying Put. Over the years they have supported many foster children through the asylum process and learned how the system works. Lynda says:

“As a child they have discretionary leave to remain in this country but it’s important for their immigration status to be sorted out before they turn 18. Often you need legal support but it’s impossible to get legal aid unless a law firm believes you’ve got more than a 50% chance of winning your case. One law firm wouldn’t take on our Syrian asylum seeker but we paid privately and won the case. If you have a barrister arguing for you, it makes a world of difference. For one of our lads, we got a statement from his deputy headmaster and another comment from the local cricket club. You learn all this as you go along.”

Highs and lows

The biggest highs for Lynda and Colin are seeing the young people settle, adapt to life in this country and go on to become well-balanced adults. There are many lows too, particularly when it comes to navigating the asylum process. She comments:

“They get turned down and often don’t understand why. One young lad thought he was being called a liar and that’s hard. It can be tough, too, to get them onto the kind of training course they want to do. GCSE English and Maths are mandatory and when English is not their first language it can be hard for them to achieve this. We have a young lad at the moment who keeps failing his GCSE English. He’s very bright and he gets disappointed. I wish there was some kind of allowance made.”

Expertise

Although they did not set out to foster asylum seekers in particular, the knowledge and experience that Lynda and Colin have built up over the years have given them a level of expertise. They hope to support many more young people to settle here and build happy and successful lives. For anyone who aspires to foster, their advice is to enquire and to access the high levels of support that are available.

If this story has given you a #reasontofosterget in touch today.

 

 

 

 

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