More than 9,000 Brits offer to take in children fleeing Syria

A Syrian refugee holds on to his daughter as he waits to cross into Turkey at Akcakale border gate in Sanliurfa province, Turkey, on June 15, 2015.Reuters

More than 9,000 people have volunteered in under five days to foster refugee and migrant children fleeing the crisis in the Middle East.

Only last Friday, Krish Kandiah of the Home for Good fostering charity appealed publicly for families to foster refugee and migrant children who arrive alone in the UK. Homes are needed now more than ever following the prime minister David Cameron's pledge to accept 20,000 refugees from Syria alone by 2020. Many of these are expected to be children unaccompanied by adults or carers.

Kandiah, an evangelical Christian who is president of the London School of Theology as well as founder of Home for Good, immediately launched an appeal for new families to foster unaccompanied minors from the Middle East. He was overwhelmed by the response, but told Christian Today, where he is a contributing editor, that many more families are still needed, such is the scale of the crisis.

Home for Good, which works with local authorities across the UK to ensure all the families are properly vetted before any children are placed, says on its website: "Unaccompanied minors are extremely vulnerable and may also be traumatised following the loss of everything and everyone they know, long and tortuous journeys, and possibly having witnessed the death of family members. They may find it difficult to communicate and difficult to trust. It is vitally important that these children are placed in safe homes where they can have the time, space and support to begin to rebuild their lives."

The appeal has been backed on Twitter by celebrities such as former Liverpool football club star player Mark Wright and ex-Everton goalie Neville Southall. Sky TV, the Guardian and other media have also picked up the story.

Kandiah told Christian Today that he was inspired in part by James 1:27, which describes how a "pure and faultless" religion is in God's sight one that looks after widows and orphans in distress.

"We are just looking for the Church to step up and say, 'We are here, this is our business.' There is a massive need. Foster carers willing to look after unaccompanied minors is one of the most difficult areas to recruit for."

When Home for Good launched the data base last Friday, 150 people signed up immediately. By Saturday this had grown to 1,000, by Sunday to 2,500 and by Monday to 8,000. There are now 9,000 volunteers and still more are signing up.

Home for Good aims to make adoption and fostering a significant part of the life and ministry of the Church in the UK.

Home For Good will be liasing with local authorities who will be developing their own reponses to the situation and the vetting process will remain as rigorous as any fostering vetting procedure, Kandiah said.

"These children have already experienced some pretty terrible things in their lives and the last thing we want to do is put them in another vulnerable situation," said Kandiah.

He welcomed the change of mood in public opinion after the deaths of migrants, including children, in a lorry, the many deaths at sea and the heartbreaking photographs of Aylan Kurdi.