Mutual Benefits: The Lessons Learned from a Community-Based Participatory Research Project with Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children and Foster Carers

Justin Rogers, Sam Carr, Caroline Hickman - Children and Youth Services Review

This paper presents a community based participatory research project, which adopted a photovoice approach with seven unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) living in foster care in the United Kingdom. The project also included a focus group with six foster carers to explore their perceptions of caring for UASCs. At the end of the focus group we then shared the young people's images from the photovoice project. The purpose of this was to better inform the carers understanding of this group's needs and the reality of their lived experiences, to see if this would have any impact on their perceptions or willingness to offer these children a placement in the future. The young people then developed the photographs into posters, which were shown at community events and exhibited in community spaces during refugee week.

Findings from the focus group show that some of these carers had anxieties and held misconceptions around caring for UASCs. This highlights the need for practitioners to engage in open conversations with foster carers, to discuss their perceptions and challenge any misconceptions. Furthermore, the project identified that some of these carers were concerned about being able to meet the cultural needs of the young people. Foster carers also seemed unaware of the available support in place to help with this. Therefore, it would be beneficial for foster care services and practitioners to ensure that carers are fully informed of the support and training available to them to assist in meeting UASCs cultural, religious and linguistic needs. The project also presents important lessons for researchers committed to finding ways to engage UASCs meaningfully in the research process. The action orientated approach of photovoice led to a wide range of public engagement activities, that allowed us to show important aspects of the young people's lived realities growing up in foster care.