Could you be there for a child or young person in an emergency?
Tuesday 23 April 2023: Hillingdon Council is asking people who might be able to provide emergency short term foster care to a child of any age or offer safe refuge to an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child (UASC) to contact its fostering team.
As the name suggests, emergency foster carers need to be available at very short notice, at unpredictable times of the day or night, to look after children of any age for up to seven days.
Due to the unpredictability of the role and the types of children and young people needing their care, emergency foster carers must be easily contactable, around the clock, and be just as comfortable looking after a baby as they are supporting a teenager.
Emergency foster carers receive a weekly allowance. This has recently been increased by 3.5 per cent and rates range from £377.24 to £447.74 per week depending on the age of the child. In return for the unplanned nature of the role, carers also receive a generous weekly retainer when they do not have a child placed with them.
Additional funding is also provided to emergency foster carers to purchase clothing, small items of furniture or any other reasonable set up costs for the child.
Similar support is provided to households who look after asylum-seeking children or UASCs because of the special nature of the placements.
Typically aged 12 years and above, UASCs may also arrive at very short notice but unlike other children they will be completely alone without the protection of their birth parents or family. They are also likely to have very few or no personal belongings, little or no English and they won't be in education.
UASCs may have escaped from conflict or turmoil in their home country and will need to feel loved and cared for in a safe and secure home environment, and, to help UASC foster carers do just that, the council provides them with the same weekly allowance as emergency carers and the funding needed for them to buy all the equipment - basic and specialist—that these children and young people have left behind.
The council's fostering team also provides practical and emotional support, and all the necessary training, to both emergency foster carers and carers for UASCs.
Diós Huynh arrived in the UK aged 15 as a lone refugee escaping imprisonment by Vietnamese authorities. Diós arrived at Heathrow Airport and was taken in by a Hillingdon Council foster carer.
He said: "At first I was really confused, it felt strange, and it was hard to trust anyone. But when I arrived the family introduced themselves and welcomed me. They gave me space to get comfortable but invited me to eat with them, and one of their children asked if I wanted to play FIFA, so we played. I was made part of the family."
Diós spoke no English when he arrived, but quickly picked the language up from his foster family, classes, and school friends. He shared that learning English opened the door to better accessing the help and support he needed.
Diós, now 21, talked about other refugee children, and the importance of his foster carers, he said: "These children are young, they are lost and need someone to guide and help them to start their future and develop their career. A foster carer needs to build relationships, you need to be able to get close, and sharing experiences is important too. My foster mum helped and supported me, I listen to her and have a special connection with her now."
Diós is working and studying hard, he hopes one day to realise his dream of becoming an accountant.
Cllr Susan O'Brien, Hillingdon Council's Cabinet Member for Children, Families and Education, said: "There are children in the borough who, for lots of reasons, cannot live with their own families and really need to be fostered into a loving and caring home.
"We're looking for more people to help us and step forward to offer a child a temporary, supportive home. It's such a rewarding experience and you'll receive financial assistance for participating. If you're interested, our experienced fostering team are happy to hear from you and help answer your questions."
Anyone interested in providing emergency foster care or a safe haven to a lone asylum-seeking young person, should visit www.Hillingdon.gov/fostering to register their interest. A member of the fostering team will get in touch within two days to provide more information.