Fam­ily’s plea for more peo­ple to con­sider fos­ter­ing

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Charity Show - By Jem Collins

Child refugees from war-torn coun­tries have be­come “‘just like fam­ily”, ac­cord­ing to an Ash­ford cou­ple who have been tak­ing in young­sters for more than two decades.

Sue and Leigh Thomas, both 47, have fos­tered dozens of un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nors from as far afield as Su­dan, Afghanistan and Eritrea, as well as bring­ing up their own three chil­dren.

Sue said: “I met Leigh at a chil­dren’s home in Ash­ford, so we were both work­ing with chil­dren be­fore we met.

“When I had my son I had to make a ca­reer de­ci­sion. We knew we both wanted to carry on work­ing with chil­dren, so while I was preg­nant with Cal­lum we de­cided to go into fos­ter­ing.”

Dur­ing the next two decades the fam­ily wel­comed young asy­lum seek­ers from war-torn coun­tries.

While some chil­dren may only stay for a mat­ter of months, oth­ers could need care for many years.

The pair even took on their first refugees be­fore their son Cal­lum was born.

Sue added: “He con­sid­ers them his broth­ers.

“They came to the hos­pi­tal the day he was born and have been in his life the whole time.”

Cal­lum, now 20, added: “I could go to them with any­thing.

“It’s more than a friend­ship, it’s a brother­hood. It’s the same as the whole fam­ily, they’re part of the fam­ily.”

How­ever, now the cou­ple are call­ing for more peo­ple con­sid­er­ing fos­ter­ing to step for­ward, af­ter a sharp rise in un­ac­com­pa­nied asy­lum seek­ers in the county.

In March 2014, there were just 220 such chil­dren be­ing cared for by Kent County Coun­cil.

How­ever, by the be­gin­ning of this month, that fig­ure had risen to more than 700.

The fam­ily elieve that peo­ple should also try to see the hu­man side of the cur­rent refugee cri­sis.

Leigh said: “Whether they’re a child who’s come from Bri­tain or a land over­seas it makes no dif­fer­ence.

“They are pri­mar­ily and ab­so­lutely chil­dren first and need to be looked af­ter with the same care and at­ten­tion re­gard­less.

KCC will be hold­ing an open evening for any­one in­ter­ested in find­ing out more about fos­ter­ing on Thurs­day, Septem­ber 24, at Dit­ton Com­mu­nity Cen­tre in Ash­ford.

Derek Beach, 40, tweeted this pic­ture af­ter be­ing stuck in the traf­fic for more than three hours

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