Meet the Northampton family who have been fostering asylum seekers for ten years
"I would advise anyone who is considering becoming a foster carer to examine whether they see fostering as a job or as a calling. If you are looking for a job, it may not be right for you. But if it's a calling, something you simply have to do, then go for it."
Ten years ago Paul Pateman, 69, and his wife Jennifer decided to become foster carers with TACT (The Adolescent and Children’s Trust) and have since taken in seven unaccompanied asylum seekers - three of whom are still living with the pair in their home in Duston.
After 20 years of working as a social worker for Northamptonshire County Council it felt like a natural progression for Paul to foster children in need, who were from Afghanistan, Kurdistan and England.
He says it has been a roller-coaster of emotions but he would never look back.
He said: "During the last ten years we have seen some wonderful transitions. They have gone from rabbits in headlights, with no English, a lack of education and significant emotional scars, to confident young people with sustainable futures.
"All they needed was stability, acceptance and an equal chance. We treat them as equal partners as I believe that’s how all young people in care should be treated by their foster carers. Don’t think you are in charge, because you are not.
"On the other hand, we also have experience with low points of caring for asylum-seeking minors, as a couple of our boys have been refused asylum, which was very disappointing. However, in times like these, they need foster carers who do not give up at the first hurdle and continue supporting them as much as they can. Otherwise, their chance is gone."
The couple's first placement was a 14-year-old boy from Afghanistan, who Paul used to support as a social worker. At the time of his referral, the teen was staying with a different family and was unhappy.
He was matched with his former family after on the grounds that both of them had a 'similar background' but the only thing the boy and the family had in common was their religion.
After a while, the lad moved in with the Duston pair and stayed with them for five years before going on to do well at college, make friends in his own community, and in the English community too.
Their second foster son, who was also from Afghanistan, arrived four days after they took their first foster child and he still lives with Paul and Jennifer today. He is now planning on moving onto independent living and is hunting for a flat in the area.
Both boys are now in further education.
Paul added: "We have managed to keep in touch with all of those who moved on and we are always pleased when they come to visit.
"It makes us proud that they have good prospects in life. One of the boys just received a special achievement award at his college."
For information about the UK's largest fostering and adoption agency, TACT, click here.