Family-based Care Supports, Protects Unaccompanied Migrant Children in Europe


London, Brussels – During the height of arrivals of refugees and migrants to Europe in 2015, more than 90,000 unaccompanied migrant children sought asylum on the continent. Last year, nearly 20,000 unaccompanied migrant children sought asylum in Europe.

To strengthen the standard of care and protection for these children, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) oversaw the Fostering Across Borders (FAB) project raising awareness and training over 170 professionals caring for unaccompanied migrant children in six European countries (Austria, Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg, Poland and the United Kingdom).

Today (10/09), a final event taking place in Brussels marks the close of the 18-month project.

“As a society, we have an obligation to provide protection and care to vulnerable people, and today I am thinking of the migrant children who reached Europe after a perilous journey,” said Dipti Pardeshi, IOM UK Chief of Mission.

“The FAB project’s bespoke training to professionals working with unaccompanied migrant children, especially for those in family-based care like foster care, may support better and brighter futures for these children,” Pardeshi continued.

According to the 2019 Fatal Journeys report, children who travel alone without family or friends are more vulnerable to threats such as exploitation, violence and abuse. Unaccompanied migrant children may have additional considerations including emotional and practical needs that must be addressed to help them recover, settle in a new country and realise their individual potential, in addition to varying cultural or religious backgrounds.

“When you first meet a young person from abroad, you have no real understanding of what they experienced or have gone through,” says Fiona, a foster care professional in the United Kingdom. 

“You also have to realize that they are a young person just like any other young person.  They are going to have their own worries, their own personal dreams,” Fiona continued.

Foster care, or family-based care, is widely regarded as the best form of care for unaccompanied migrant children, as fewer children go missing from foster care compared to reception centres or institutions.  However, many foster carers have not received specific training on looking after migrant children or may be uncertain of the unique challenges these children face. 

Since January 2018, IOM’s Fostering Across Borders project developed a foster care training programme adapted to each implementing country’s national context and providing information materials on the specific needs of unaccompanied migrant children.  The project also engaged migrant children in focus group discussions and brought together stakeholders to promote the wider use of the family-based care model to support better outcomes for the children.  

Please click here for more information on IOM’s Fostering Across Borders project, including all mapping and training materials, or watch a short video (English) about migrant children’s experience in foster care. This video is also available in Dutch, French, German, Greek, Polish and Welsh here.

For further information, please contact Abby Dwommoh at IOM UK, Tel: +44 (0) 20 7811 6060, Email: