Earlier this week we were asked to take two boys, who had arrived without documents, to seek sanctuary from Afghanistan, as a 7 day placement, alongside the our first ever short term placement who arrived just 3 days before them.
Mahir and Safi (Names Changed) were quiet, reserved and seemed nervous on coming to placement . We were told that they spoke no English and both claimed to be 14 / 15 years old, although Safi appears to be considerably younger than Mahir.
Within 24 hours, after good food and sleep, they presented as much more relaxed and increasing in confidence and making a concerted effort to acquire basic English vocabulary to communicate with John, another child in placement ( similar age ) . Mahir and Safi are very keen to use the computer and quickly learned how to access music videos of Afghan music.
To be party to the account of their life in Afghanistan (pictionary style) and of their journey to England was a humbling experience for both carers and the other child in placement. It has given John (our other foster child of 10 days) a respect for children of other ethnicity that we could never have imagined possible when he referred to them just days ago (immediately prior to placement ) as “Paki” – stating ……” I don’t want no pakis coming here, they might have bombs up their arses” . You can imagine that this comment led to rather a long and “interesting” discussion !”
The relationship (and increasing tolerance) that they have built , I feel has been mutually beneficial – given that John ( also 15 ) has very a camp manner and Mahir and Safi appear to find this tricky, given their strict Muslim upbringing.
I offered paper and envelopes to Mahir, encouraging him to write to family in Afghanistan. Communication is difficult, but Mahir picked up mobile and intimated that he wanted to use the phone. As no discussion had taken place in relation to this Martin and I discussed and agreed.
In hindsight we should have gained permission from our agency ( I guess this was a rookie error ) . Both Mahir and Safi made a phone call, we suspect to Afghanistan, and appeared far less uptight after this. Within 10 minutes the phone rang. A gentleman introduced himself to me, by name, as a friend of the family of Safi and stated that he lived in Birmingham.
He explained that he wanted to help the boys. He was able to explain to the boys that we wanted to wash their clothes and would provide Halal meat. He later rang back and asked if he could visit the boys. We explained that as we were 4 hours away from Birmingham where he is based – and as we don’t have permission this would need to wait until we were able to speak with Social Services.
I was concerned at this stage in relation to possible exploitation risk – given that we know this to be a problem in England at the moment.
Jayne Robbins (alias) A Blogging Foster Carer.