An organisation which matches overseas students with guardians willing to attend sports days and parents nights is looking for Yorkshire volunteers.
Director of The Guardian Family Network Siobhan Skaife says that becoming a guardian to an overseas student is not a scary process.
“We work with fantastic prominent independent boarding schools. We have children who want to learn and parents who want the best for their children,’’ she says.
“Guardians get to develop an emotional connection with the students and play a significant part in their lives. We want our guardians to feel that the child they are supporting is one of their own. We want them to feel like they are the student’s English family.”
The Guardian Family Network cares for more than 100 children between the ages of 8 and 18 all studying full time in 54 schools across the United Kingdom.
Most of the students come from Japan but numbers are increasing from Mexico and China.
Once the overseas students have found their UK school, the Guardian Family Network works to match the child with the right guardian family.
“There is no list of criteria you must meet to become a guardian,’’ Siobhan says.
“You can be single, a couple, empty nesters or parents. We want people who have a spare bedroom and a desire to support a child and provide a home-away-from-home environment.
“We try to match the guardian to the child. For instance, if a child is studying music we try to find a guardian that has an interest in music. Likewise if the child’s interest is sport, then we look for a guardian who likes sport.
“As a guardian we expect you will be involved in the child’s extra-curricular activities like attending school concerts, sporting matches and parent nights to make sure the child is progressing well at school.’’
All guardians are volunteers but The Guardian Family Network does reimburse expenses involved in the care of a child. All guardians are vetted and a trial is carried out before guardianship is confirmed to make sure that both the student and the guardian are happy with the arrangement.
The students will stay with guardians for two weekends during each term and a week during half term. Most students come to families in either April or September, but sometimes last-minute placements are required.
“Each guardian chooses how to form a relationship with their student. It’s not a full time role. Guardians can still work full time if they want. Guardian families can still carry on doing what they would normally be doing,’’ Siobhan says.
“In an ideal situation a guardian will see a child through their entire UK schooling process.”
While Siobhan is the director of The Guardian Network Family, she is also a guardian herself and speaks from personal experience about the effect taking in children has had on her own family.
“There are lots of cultural benefits to being a guardian,’’ she says. “Firstly, you learn how people live in other countries.
“The relationship my two daughters built with our first student was wonderful.
“It gave them empathy to understand the idea that there was a big wide world out there beyond us.
“My daughters were also influenced by how hard our student studied. It made them realise they could work harder at their education.’’
If any Yorkshire residents want to find out more visit the website www.guardianfamilynetwork.com where you can also download an application form to become guardians. Alternatively, send us an email email@example.com
All guardians, and anyone over 16 living in the house, must complete a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check before they can take in a child.
On average it takes one month from application before a child is allocated to a guardian. The Guardian Family Network only allocates one child per guardian. The only exception is when the students are siblings.