Europe is at a turning point. Now leaders from across the EU are listening to the calls to offer homes to those who are risking their lives fleeing tyranny and violence in their home country.
While there will be many families who arrive together, the children who arrive on their own will be welcomed into the home of a foster carer who has decided to dedicate their life and career to helping children. These approved foster carers, who have received training and who have support from their fostering service, will offer them homes, security, and love at the hour of these children's greatest need - and for the weeks, months, and years beyond.
With the announcement that the UK will welcome thousands of refugees in the coming months, even more foster carers across the UK will be called into action to provide for children who arrive in the country. And more foster carers are urgently needed, with over 2,000 unaccompanied children applying for asylum between January and June alone. In January The Fostering Network called for a further 8,370 fostering families to come forward in 2015, but because of the ongoing humanitarian crisis, many areas are experiencing a significant increase in the need for foster carers.
Fostering can provide children with stability, care, love and support at such a critical time, and our existing care system will prove invaluable in having a positive effect on the lives of these children, who often arrive with nothing and no-one. We are lucky that we've developed the structures within our care system to support the children who will arrive alone on our shores, and so we must use those structures to the best of our abilities. It will be a challenge, but one that I know we are all capable of achieving.
We must push forward in two ways:
Firstly, existing and trained foster carers who don't currently have a child in their home who would consider looking after an unaccompanied young person should approach their fostering service and let them know that they're able to provide a home to children who may be placed in their area.
Secondly, in order to provide stable longer-term support to refugee children, we would encourage people who have experience of working with children, and especially those who have suffered trauma or loss, to apply to become foster carers. It is also important that people from the same communities or who speak the same languages as refugee children, who already settled in the UK and who will be able to support a smooth transition for children arriving unaccompanied come forward.
Whatever your skillset or experience, don't rule yourself out before contacting your local fostering service to see if your skills, experiences and circumstances can provide loving and stable homes for children.
The children that come to the UK are not a burden. They are children. Together we must give these children the chance to be children, and foster carers in the UK have a history of supporting children who have sought refuge when escaping war torn nations.
Foster carers will not be able to stop their nightmares, but they will make sure that their waking hours are ones that can be enjoyed, and ones that contribute towards their development.
I would encourage you to visit couldyoufoster.org.uk, find your local fostering service, and see whether you have the skills and experiences they need in their local area.