Capstone Foster Care Blog

Our foster carer Tony was a member of the Army Reserve (formerly known as the Territorial Army) for a short time in the late 70s early 80s.

Later, his two sons joined the Regular Army. Their decision came after attending the Army Cadets as young boys through to their late teens. They both felt that this gave them an idea of what they could expect of army life.

Tony said:

‘My eldest son joined the Army Air Corps, and my younger son joined the Royal Military Police. They both did well and attained NCO Corporal rank within 8 -11 years. They had the opportunity to travel, it offered them a new perspective on life, and without a doubt helped them transition in to adulthood.’

Both of Tony’s sons believe it is the best decision they’ve ever made and now have successful careers since leaving.

When Johnathan, Tony’s eldest came home to see the family, or when Tony and family visited his eldest, their foster child J, would be very inquisitive about army life. They would talk about the positive aspects of being in the army, as well as the reality of the challenges faced by those in the army. Johnathan always advocated for joining the army.

Tony said:

‘J and I have spoken a great deal about what he wants to do in life after leaving care, and it seems joining the Regular Army is on the horizon.

We have talked about the benefits that come with this, including the practical skills he will learn, and how he will have accommodation, and be part of the Army family, where his needs as a young man will be met, and if he puts his mind to it, he could also do well and have a good start to adulthood life as well as a good career prospect.

I believe there is a similarity between being fostered and the Army. Your become part of a family, you make new friends, you are given a place to live, all your medical and dental care is provided, and the bonus is you get paid. If J chooses to join the army he will get to travel the world for free and visit many countries he may otherwise never have the chance to do, he can take part in many different sports, and learn to drive. What other job gives you that many benefits?

With a helping hand from the Army, it’s a great way to transition from leaving care to trying to make it in the world.’

 


Denise and Steven Bassett currently have two unaccompanied minors in placement. Fostering unaccompanied minors is something they are both passionate about and want to highlight the need for this type of fostering. We recently interview Denise and Steve and here’s what they had say about unaccompanied and asylum seeking placements.

How did you both get into fostering?

We knew a foster carer and they seemed to really enjoy it which is what encouraged us. We did a lot of research as the location needed to be good and we wanted an agency that had a family feel. We felt it was important to be a ‘someone’ and not a ‘something’. After doing our research we narrowed it down to two agencies and then after consideration we decided to go with Capstone.

Have your placements with Capstone always been unaccompanied minors?

No, the two we currently have in placement are both unaccompanied minors but our previous placements before that weren’t. Our first unaccompanied minor was placed with us as an emergency placement five years ago and he has been with us ever since. Our second placement has been with us for just over three months and already feels part of the family. Both are now starting to build a lovely friendship with each other.

How did your first placement of an unaccompanied minor happen and what were your initial thoughts?

I was called by the out of hours social worker from Capstone with the emergency placement. The first thing that came to my mind was to say ‘no’ because I had so many questions. There was a fear of the unknown, but then I thought about it and decided to give it a chance and go for it. So, we said yes and then I immediately rang a friend who I knew had experience with unaccompanied minors, to ask some questions. Some advice I would give to any foster carer taking these placements is to talk to the young person’s social worker, if possible.They will know the most about them and can answer your initial questions immediately, as the information you receive may only be a name and an age.

What is one of the more difficult aspects of looking after an unaccompanied minor?

We would say the language barrier is initially the most difficult part. It is the biggest thing because it affects everything from what food they like to what clothes they wear. The quicker you can find a way of communicating the better. It can be quite funny in the beginning and we did use Google Translate a lot, although sometimes this doesn’t translate as you want it to, so you must be careful.  When our young person did start speaking English, we gave him a book and asked him to read a page and underline any words he did not know or understand. We would then sit together, and he would read what he could, and I would help him sound out the words he didn’t know.

What advice would you give to someone who has reservations?

The prospect of the unknown is so daunting, but you must imagine how they are feeling. As daunting as it is for us, it is incredibly overwhelming for them. Can you imagine landing in a country you don’t know, where you can’t speak the language? It would be so frightening. Don’t look at it like it is going to be trouble, think about what they must have been through to get here. Don’t say no, say ‘how can I help and how can Capstone help me, to help them’, because they need us and honestly, they are an absolute pleasure and I love it.

What advice would you give to someone who is new to fostering unaccompanied minors?

You need to understand that things are different for them culturally, so they may do things that you don’t understand. You must teach them the small things and some of them may need a good structure and routine to cope.  Small goals and responsibilities can be helpful in bringing them out of their shell. I would also suggest getting them into a mainstream school as quickly as possible as this is where they learn social skills and how to interact with others. You just need to be supportive and be available for them at that any time, as you are all they have. It’s also worth noting that you can always contact the Refugee Council and they can support you with any questions you have, and a translator can be useful when going into meetings.

These two unaccompanied minors are two of the best placements we have ever had, they are amazing. Like all placements, it has its challenges, but it is so worth it and is very rewarding. You become a foster carer to give a child a better experience in life, and that’s what you need to do. Help them to be positive and to have the same chances as us. Just give it a chance!


Jahanara and Nural have been foster carers with Capstone for the last 6 years and during that time all their placements have been unaccompanied minors.

Jahanara said:

‘6 years ago, we decided to return to fostering after some encouragement from our children and we have been with Capstone Foster Care ever since. A lot has changed in that time and since joining Capstone we have learnt a lot and the training has been very good. We also have a lovely community of carers here and we are all good friends which means we have great support.

When we joined Capstone, it wasn’t a specific preference, but all our placements have been unaccompanied minors and we currently have 2 in placement with us at the moment. When we got sent our first referral, we said yes, and it just happened from there. It has had its ups and downs and its own challenges, but I would say that it has had a lot less issues that your standard placement may experience.

The main worry with unaccompanied minor placements is that the young person may be missing home, their family and that they might feel alone because they are not used to this country. They are suddenly placed in a new home with new people and who might not understand them.

As a foster carer the biggest responsibility is finding a way of connecting with them. You may follow the same religion, talk the same language, like the same food or have the same hobbies and just need to find the one of these that helps the young person. This is something I was comfortable with as I moved here when I was 12. Although I moved with my family I can understand how it feels being in a strange place and at new school, so it gives me the strength to take these placements as I know what they must be missing, and they can talk to me and know that I understand.

One of the challenges is teaching the young person to do things for themselves and teaching them respect. A lot of unaccompanied minors have been told that when they get here they will be able to ask for what they want, and it will be provided, so you need to help them understand the process whilst being mindful of what they may have been through to get here. They are just children and they don’t understand.

If I was to give advice to anyone who is thinking about placements, then I would say try it and you will probably enjoy it. I really do. You are given the chance to make them into something and you know when they leave that they will appreciate you and what you have done for them. Children are children at the end of the day and if you want to help an child then help any child. It is humanity.’


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