Unaccompanied migrant children find comfort and stability in foster homes | Photo credit: METAdrasi
Unaccompanied migrant children find comfort and stability in foster homes | Photo credit: METAdrasi

Hundreds of children in Greece are in desperate need of the warmth and safety of a family. Some of them have lost their own parents on treacherous migration routes to Europe, leaving them alone and vulnerable. A non-governmental organization, METAdrasi, runs a foster care program for these children so that they can stay in a secure and loving environment while they wait for family reunification with their relatives in other states of the EU. 

Anousheh is 16 years old. Some months ago, after fleeing Afghanistan, she and her family took a boat from Turkey, bound for Greece. Only she survived the journey, arriving in Europe alone. 

Luckily, a team from a Greek non-government organization, METAdrasi, was able to help Anousheh. Through a program that arranges foster care for unaccompanied migrant children, she was offered hospitality and care by Elena, who lives in Athens. 

"At first, Anousheh was very sad. She would spend hours alone in her room, not feeling like eating or talking," Elena says on METAdrasi’s website. "I took her for a walk in the park… I tried to communicate with her. I showed her pictures from when I was her age. I asked her to teach me some words from her language and for the first time I saw her laughing. I suggested that we cook a new recipe together. I introduced her to my little niece, who gave her a bracelet as a present. Gradually, her enjoyment of life was reborn and a smile returned to her face."

Anousheh now lives with her uncle in another country, but she is still in contact with Elena. 

How to help a refugee child in Greece 

Throughout Europe there are thousands of children who, like Anousheh, have lost their families on the journey or have traveled alone. Last year, according to the UNHCR, almost 11,000 unaccompanied children were among the nearly 140,000 people to arrive in Greece, Italy and Spain seeking protection. As of May 2019, there were 3,788 unaccompanied children registered in Greece alone. Many of these children face unsafe environments when they reach Europe. They may be homeless or, in some cases, be forced to stay in detention centers or police stations.

Foster children experience the warmth of a family | Photo credit: METAdrasi

METAdrasi’s program "Foster Care for Unaccompanied and Separated Children" was set up with funding from EEA Grants (a program aimed at reducing economic and social disparities in the EU) through the Bodossaki Foundation, a private philanthropic organization in Greece. Since August 2016 it has been supported by the UNHCR, with co-funding from the European Commission. 

It links parents (couples or individuals) interested in providing foster care to refugee children who are alone and need the warmth of a family and the safety of a home. 

Watch a YouTube video about foster care for unaccompanied minors 

Who can apply? 

Greek families, including unmarried couples, single-parent families and families without children can apply. Foreign nationals who have lived in Greece legally for a long time can also apply. 

To foster a child you need to be physically and mentally healthy, financially stable and be over 30 but under 60 years old. When METAdrasi matches a foster parent with a child, they make sure the parent is at least 18 years, but not more than 50 years older than the child.

What does a foster parent do? 

The foster parent is expected to take full responsibility for the child’s everyday needs and care, including emotional support, by providing a secure and stable environment where the child can develop his or her personality and adapt smoothly to Greek society.

Two children made this envelope and card for their foster father. The card says: "I love you, dear uncle Zad." The envelope says they are leaving to go to Germany, and they wish their host father "a long life full of health and grace." | Photo credit: METAdrasi

How long a child stays with a foster care depends on the needs and the legal status of each child.

How do you apply to foster an unaccompanied child? 

To contact METAdrasi about fostering a refugee child: 

If you are in Athens, you can attend meetings on the first and third Wednesday of the month from 4-5 pm, at METAdrasi, Tavros, 7, 25 Martiou str., 1st floor, to find out more.

 

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