Catherine Rioda on fostering child refugees
We’ve all seen in the news that the UK will shortly welcome more refugees and unaccompanied children into the country in need of a safe and stable home, following the humanitarian crisis. The role of foster carers has never been more important in offering a safe haven for all vulnerable children – whether they are seeking asylum, coming from UK based care backgrounds, teenagers or toddlers – to grow up in.
Catherine Rioda, Regional Director for Pathway Care in the Midlands, talks about why the need for more carers is greater than ever and why it’s important that all foster carers are flexible about the type of child they can look after:
“There is really no way of knowing when a child comes to you as a foster carer, exactly what that child has experienced and how they will react to your environment. Every child is an individual and foster caring is about understanding that there are no one size fits all rules about age, gender or culture when it comes to children. We can’t make presumptions about them based on stereotypes and referral information can be limited – so we look at all foster children as individuals, who come with their own challenges, but also their own positives.
“Foster parenting of unaccompanied children seeking asylum, who will be in need of homes, presents its own challenges, as with any other type of fostering. Each child has had a different experience and we don’t have a real insight into exactly how frightening life has been for any child who needs foster care. We don’t make presumptions about children and we would advise any foster carers similarly to not make presumptions about what child they are best looking after. You may find you are suited to teenagers, rather than young children and cultural matches don’t have to be exact. No child is easier or harder to look after than another, they all come with different social needs and there is no handbook. We ask our foster carers to be open minded, look at what fits into your household and what you do socially.
“Every young person is unique and every child brings lots of positives to your home. With the children we are seeing on the news, we have to remember that we know little about their backgrounds. They have had an extremely traumatic journey into this country from start to finish, which will have been harrowing. Young children have landed in a country where they don’t speak the language and a simple bang noise in our household may remind them of war from their own experience. We need to ensure, like we would with any other child, that they feel welcome and safe and that cultural links within the local community are quickly established.
“Our advice would be to not rule yourself out of being a foster carer for any type of child. You can do it and it doesn’t matter if you are not from the same cultural background – it matters more that you are willing to learn of their background to meet their needs. Foster caring is about going back to basics and parenting from the start.
“At Pathway Care we offer high quality training for every behaviour that you would see demonstrated by a child. We offer a huge range of support for foster carers and children, through our team of social workers, clinical psychologists, and family support workers – there is always someone here, 24 hours a day, seven days a week to lean on. We have excellent Ofsted ratings and are on local authority preferred supplier frameworks, which mean we have access to a lot of different placements and there is a child to suit everyone.
“We value life skills and age, gender, ethnicity and sexuality are not a barrier to becoming a carer with us. Most people who become foster carers have never looked after someone else’s child in another capacity, but we look to draw these traits out of people. Some have skills from work experience too and we welcome all applicants to come and talk to us. It’s about how you can offer a huge range of young people a stable home, nurturing care and the chance to achieve their potential.”
If you would like to talk to us about being a foster carer with Pathway Care, call 0800 170 170 9.