We started fostering when our oldest daughter was six months old. Ahmed’s parents had fostered since he was in his twenties so we were familiar with what fostering was about.
We were approved when our daughter was about a year old. We preferred older children as she was so young and we fostered an unaccompanied asylum seeking young person. He was 15 and was from Afghanistan. It was good that we shared language, religion and similar food. When he became 18, we wanted him to stay until he was ready to be independent and he wanted stay with us, so he stayed with us under ‘Staying Put’. We also changed from fostering to Supported Lodgings. We had a second daughter by this time and as our children were young we felt Supported Lodgings fitted in. We now have another young man placed with us who is originally from Vietnam.
Ahmed: Supported Lodgings fits in well with our family life and now that we have experience with the home office and children’s solicitors so we feel able to support young people seeking asylum.
Sameera: I come from a large family and I have an older sister role in supporting the young people. When I moved to England, I missed my family and having the young people living with us has made me feel less homesick.
Ahmed: I am a teacher so this has helped in supporting the young people in education and helping them improve their English.
Sameera: Our first young man is very much part of the family and our children see him as an older brother. He sometimes gives them advice on how to deal with problems at school and he buys them Christmas presents. Occasionally they tease each other and I have had to have a quiet word. The other young man is well settled with us but he is more reserved.
Ahmed: On a typical day both boys get themselves up and go to college. Occasionally they ask us to wake them up. They don’t always have breakfast but come home and cook. Our young man from Vietnam enjoys cooking food from his own country and has sometimes cooked for us. Both do their own washing and we have a rota for cleaning the bathroom. Both of them are fairly independent now.
Sameera: the most difficult thing was when we were fostering and communicating with the social worker around what the young person was allowed to do – it has been much easier with Supported Lodgings as they are young adults and quite independent. It was a good learning experience to sort out the difficulties as I approached the social workers manager and dealt with the problem.
Sameera: I did worry when they started staying out overnight with friends, but they are adults and they both text to let us know what they are doing so we don’t worry.
Ahmed: I found the asylum issues the most challenging thing, as I felt powerless to help as there isn’t anything you can do to change the system. It is difficult when young people’s future is so uncertain and it is hard to guide someone towards their future when you don’t know where they will be. The young people’s ability in English has been difficult as this impacts on what courses they can do at college, so it has been important to help them with their speaking and writing skills.
Sameera: I try to find a common interest to engage with the young people – for example one of the young people is very interested in cooking and wants to be a chef, so we talk about food and try each others’ cooking. I find it best to talk about their interests first and gradually build up trust, until they feel more able to open up about more personal things such as their family.
Ahmed: Both boys are very well behaved, but it is a two way thing – we provide a family environment that they respect. They are quite independent but we offer them food if we are cooking and invite them to sit with us – we don’t want them to feel they are just lodgers.