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What are the training needs of foster carers who look after unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people?



Barnardo's Apex Project is one of over three hundred and seventy projects run by Barnardo's, which is one of the largest children's charities in the United Kingdom. The Apex Project was established in April 1988 to recruit, train and support foster carers for children and young people being 'looked after' by Local Authorities under the provisions of the Children Act 1989.


In 2001 the Project, in partnership with Kent County Council began to specialise in providing placements for unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people. Since 2001 the project has placed over sixty unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people on a short break, short term and long term basis.


Purpose and aims

I chose to research the training of foster carers who look after unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people as this is an area largely un-researched to date and is an area I feel is very important for the development of individual foster carers, their caring potential, successful outcomes for young people placed, as well as for the project and organisation as a whole. Within the project and wider organisation no such research has been undertaken and there are over sixty projects working with unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people at the present time.





The research was undertaken using qualitative research methods. In collecting the data foster carers, young people and staff were involved in face-face semi-structured interviews. Purposive sampling was undertaken and all carers of unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people, staff and young people were invited to take part in the research.


Opinions were sought from carers and staff regarding the training currently provided by the project, how foster carers are prepared to look after unaccompanied asylum seeking young people and how the project can provide them with the information they need to carry out this particular fostering task in the most effective way.


It was also important to ascertain whether carers and staff consider looking after unaccompanied asylum seeking young people to be a specialist fostering task which would therefore lend itself to specialist training.


Establishing whether training is the most appropriate method of information exchange or whether carers and staff would prefer to be informed in ways that are more effective for them as individuals, which might not necessarily be through training, was also important to consider.


The young people interviewed were asked questions about the care they receive from their foster carers, how their care could be improved and how foster carers can most appropriately support them.


On completion of the interviews the content was analysed using thematic grids to identify themes and patterns in the data.


Key findings

  • The majority of foster carers felt the general training they receive from the project is of very good quality. They feel prepared for fostering, but not necessarily fully prepared to look after unaccompanied asylum seeking young people.
  • The majority of foster carers and staff agree that this is a specialist fostering task and therefore specialist training and information should be provided.
  • It was suggested by the majority, that training should not be the only method for them to gain knowledge in this area. They suggested this could be provided through one-to-one support visits with their Apex Link Worker, meeting with other young people and experienced foster carers, updates in the post from Apex staff, books, informative web sites, portfolio of information put together from the knowledge gained by project staff and more specific information about the young people they are looking after during the placement preparation process.
  • Areas of knowledge foster carers and staff felt they need in order to be successful in this fostering task included: cultural and religious understanding, history of countries of origin, asylum procedures and immigration law, how to support young people with uncertain futures, emotional needs of young people, why young people seek asylum, family tracing and how to cook food from different cultures.
  • It was highlighted that statutory, voluntary and community organisations should be involved in training Apex foster carers.
  • Training should be flexible to enable the majority of foster carers to attend e.g. evening and weekend sessions as well as sessions during the week.
  • Young people were overall very positive about their foster carers. However, the majority felt their foster carers did not understand them, their religion and culture as well as their legal situation. Half would like their carers to cook food from their countries of origin and learn about their countries.



  • To use the data collected from the research to implement a training, information and support package for all carers who look after unaccompanied asylum seeking young people.
  • To ensure that future learning impacts on the training programme.
  • Invite staff, carers and young people to participate in writing, delivering and evaluating the training programme.
  • As well as training, the project needs to adopt other methods of informing foster carers about the issues relating to the needs of unaccompanied asylum seeking young people.
  • Liaise with statutory, voluntary and community organisations in relation to training and support they can provide foster carers.
  • Ensure that training is practical and relevant to all foster carers and use a variety or learning methods and styles, taking into consideration the demographics of the group being trained.
  • To encourage and support foster carers to access information themselves.


Contact details

Hannah Stott, Barnardo's Apex Project, 128 London Road, Southborough, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 0PL, UK.

Tel: + 44 (0) 1892 510650

Email: hannah.stott@barnardos.org.uk


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