fostering Refugees and Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children

The difference between asylum and refugee status is that an asylum seeker is someone who claims to be a refugee, but whose claim hasn’t yet been evaluated. When referring to ‘UASC’, this may sometimes include children who have refugee status, and therefore these children may also be referred to as ‘separated’ children. 

Fostering unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) requires specialist knowledge and skills. For example, UASC may need support with filling in citizenship application forms and they may have more meetings to attend to. The child may suffer from post-traumatic stress and there may be complications in resuming or maintaining contact with their friends and family.

Occasionally there is uncertainty about the age of the children placed, either because the child doesn’t know how old they are, or because the individual wishes to present as younger so they are more likely to have their asylum claim accepted. Some UASC have experienced being trafficked and they may still have contact with their traffickers, who may be trying to get the child to leave the foster home. It’s particularly upsetting to know that many unaccompanied children are lost along their journey to the UK and even sometimes after they arrive in the UK and it’s thought that many of the children have been sexually and/or labour exploited. Foster carers of unaccompanied asylum seeking children will be given support and training to understand all of these issues and how they can offer the best level of support to the children.

That said, many foster carers have a strong preference for caring for unaccompanied children because these children are considered to be exceptionally vulnerable and so some foster carers feel particularly sympathetic to these children. Furthermore, it is not unusual (but not guaranteed) for these children to adapt very quickly to living in the UK and many have gone on to excel. A good example of this is Gulwali Passarlay, an Afghan refugee, who lived with White British foster carers (who he continues to call uncle and aunty): Gulwali graduated with a degree in Politics from the University of Manchester, has written an autobiography and is a prominent campaigner (see for full bio).

Any foster carers who wish to look after UASC would need to be able to demonstrate that they have the knowledge and skills to meet the needs of the children. These specialist carers are required to review some of the optional reading (below) and discuss their learning with their social worker. Additional training can be provided if needed. 

Resources (optional reading)

Age assessments

Age assessment guidance: Guidance to assist social workers and their managers in undertaking age assessments in England. From the Association of Directors of Children’s Services. 

Age assessments – information from the Coram Children’s Legal Centre. 

Age assessments. Guides for professionals and young people in English, Arabic and Kurdish. From the Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit. 

Hundreds of child refugees facing abuse, harassment, exploitation and trauma in adult hotels and detention (Refugee Council)

Asylum process

Asylum process – a map/graphic of the asylum process for separated children. Produced by The Refugee Council. 

The stages of a young person’s asylum journey. An interactive guide by ‘Right to Remain’ and a list of roles of professionals in the ‘People who can help’ section. 

Traffic light reference chart on legal representation of UASC – useful guide to ensure UASC receive good legal support. 

Welcome: Your guide to claiming asylum as a separated child in the UK (under 18 years old) – by The Refugee Council


Healing classrooms. By the International Relief Committee. the Healing classrooms programme aims to support schools and educators to develop inclusive and nurturing spaces where refugee and asylum-seeking students can gain the necessary academic, social and emotional skills to develop their full potential. The IRC offers free training sessions and resources to educators and schools supporting refugee and asylum-seeking students in the UK. 

Implementing school-based initiatives to support young refugees and unaccompanied asylum-seekign children. 25 minute video by Phillip Taylor, BroadOak School Manchester. 

Online ESOL resources for children: A list of free online resources for children to learn English. Collated by the North West Regional Strategic Migration Partnership. 

Practitioner training: To promote educational access and outcomes in their context. Free training from Refugee Education UK. 

Pupil resources, new to English – from Wigan Council

Supporting unaccompanied asylum seeking young people in education. By AfC (Achieving for Children)

Welcoming refugee and asylum seeking learners. A collection of resources for schools welcoming newly arrived learners who speak English as an Additional Language. Also useful for fostering workers. Produced by The Bell Foundation.  

Welcoming unaccompanied asylum seeking young people in school or college: Briefing video. 12 minute video by Achieving for Children. 


UASC health – Resources to support the health of separated children. From the ‘NHS Kent and Medway Looked After Children’s Team’. 


Care of unaccompanied migrant children and child victims of modern slavery: Statutory guidance for LAs and professionals who support unaccompanied migrant children, who may be victims, or potential victims, of modern slavery. [Also see Sparks Fostering guidance ‘Modern Slavery]. 

Human Trafficking: First report of session 2023 – 24. By the House of Commons and Home Affairs Committee. 

Over 100 charities call for action on children going missing from Home Office hotels, at risk of trafficking and exploitation. From Every Child Protected Against Trafficking. 

UK minister admits 200 asylum-seeking children have gone missing. Article in The Guardian. 

Trauma and emotional health

Childhood trauma, migration and asylum: Toolkit for educational communities, children and other professionals. Produced by the UK Trauma Council. 

How to support refugee and asylum-seeking children and young people who have experienced trauma. By the UK Trauma Council. 

Mental health and psychosocial support directory for refugees and migrants in London. By Kings College London. Content may also be useful for those outside London. 

Practice guidelines for clinical psychologists for supporting appropriate care and treatment for Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Minors in the United Kingdom. A document produced by Foundation 63 for clinical psychologists, but with a lot of useful information for the fostering sector. 

The youngsters going through the UK’s asylum system – BBC London. A 26 min video outlining the harrowing situation for separated people entering the UK. It talks about how damaging age assessments can be, and addresses what happens when care leavers are denied asylum status. 

Voice of the child

Fostering case-studies: Children who are migrants or refugees. A lovely 12 minute video of separated young people their foster carers talking about their experiences. Produced by Waltham Forest Council. 

Refugee stories‘ – videos  produced by a variety of organisations and collated by ‘Schools of Santuary’. Very moving and distressing personal account. 


APPG for social work: Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children roundtable. 1 and half hour recording published by the British Association of Social Workers (Nov 2021). 

Asylum seeker and refugee support. A comprehensive list of resources collated by Hampshire Services. 

A warm welcome: A blueprint for supporting displaced children. Guidance from Barnados. 

Care of unaccompanied migrant children and child victims of modern slavery: Statutory guidance for local authorities. Department for Education (Nov 2017).

Caring for children moving alone: Protecting unaccompanied and separated children. Online course, 4 hours a week for 6 weeks. 

Caring for unaccompanied asylum seeking children and young people. A series of booklets available to purchase as a group (or individually). 

Children’s Rights Group Webinar: The rights of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the UK. 1 and half hour recording produced by Doughty Street Chambers in March 2023. It includes speakers from the Children’s Rights Group (at Doughty Street Chambers), the UN Special Rapporteur in Trafficking, the Chief Executive of Article 39, and the Head of Policy at ‘Every Child Protected Against Trafficking’ (ECPAT).

Creating the environment for recovery for displaced children, young people and families. 1 and half hour video by Anna Freud. 

First generation immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees: learning from case reviews. From the NSPCC. 

Focusing practice on the best interests of child victims of trafficking. A 1 hour recording of a seminar hosted by ‘Every Child Protected Against Trafficking’ (ECPAT)

How to talk with children and young people about war: Understanding and supporting our refugee children. A 1 and half hour webinar by Dr Tina Rae, hosted by Evidence for Learning. 

Practising with care in mind: Learning from professionals and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. A free course by ‘OpenLearn Create’. 

Providing support to refugee children. A free 3 hour course by the Augeo Foundation. 

Refugees, asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors – Resources. A list of resources in London. 

Resources for young people. Particularly useful for children who are due to be interviewed by the Home Office. Produced by the Migrant and Refugee Children’s Legal Unit. 

SLRA (South London Refugee Assocation) has useful resources and information. 

Social work practice with unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people facing removal. A journal article by Frances Wright, published in The British Journal of Social Work.

Supporting children, adolescents, and families impacted by conflict and forced displacement. A podcast by The Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health. 

Supporting refugee and asylum seeking children – free downloadable resources from ‘Young Minds’.

Supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children: The experience of foster care. 20min recording by The Rees Centre. This is very easy to follow and highly recommended for foster carers of separated children. 

Taking care – Immigration support for young people in your care (a video by Coram). 

The Mental Health of Children Impacted by Armed Conflict: Supporting Parenting and Wellbeing. A podcast by The Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health. 

UASC Hub: An online resource for professionals or carers supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in Yorkshire and Humber. By Migration Yorkshire. 

Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC): advice, guidance and resources. Collated by Devon County Council, but useful for foster care in any area. 

Working with unaccompanied asylum seeking children – a video produced by The Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health outlining the work done in Kent). Note that the second presentation is specifically for foster carers. Some of it is hard to follow, but it has useful tips for activities with children who have suffered trauma. 

Who is Who? A series of videos and resources in different  languages which outline the roles of professionals working with separated children. By the Migrant and Refugee Children’s Legal Unit.