Please look after this bear…

Paddington Bear was created by the wonderful Michael Bond. The Bond family looked after Jewish children escaping from Nazi terror in the 1930s.

I have always had a soft spot for Paddington Bear.

If you grew up in the 1970s, you’ll remember the five minute grainy cartoon which signalled the end of Children‘s TV. If I remember rightly, and I might not, Paddington was in colour but the backdrop was in black and white. The BBC budget didn’t actually allow the characters to move, except when drinking tea or eating marmalade sandwiches.

Younger readers may well have seen the more recent films. Paddington is hilarious, accident prone, polite, and endlessly endearing. He’s very hard not to love.

The 2014 film makes a reference to the Kindertransport programme. As the Nazis ramped up their persecution of the Jews, Britain agreed to accept 10,000 Jewish children. Desperate parents put their helpless children on trains bound for the UK. Some were so young they could not remember their own names. Labels, with name and age, were tied around their necks. This was a time before computerised passport control and mobile phones.

This is Harry. As a Jewish teenager in Austria, his parents put him on a train bound for England, hoping strangers would look after him. Strangers did. Harry never saw his parents again.

I’m reminded of this period of history when I see similar desperation in the faces of Ukrainians escaping Putin’s war.

If I were Ukrainian, I’d be deemed fit and able to fight. My sons are 17 and 15. Would I encourage them to flee with their Mother and sister?

How bad does it have to get, before ‘anywhere but here’ becomes the best option?

Escaping refugees are greeted by sign waving locals at railways stations across Western Europe.

What must it be like to trust that a stranger, in another land, with another language, and another culture will care for my family?

I wonder what my last words to my fleeing family would be?

I think I would plea for them to stay together.

From what I understand, most of the refugees are family units. In the chaos, fear and confusion, I would want my wife and children to cling to one another. In fact, I think it would be entirely natural and understandable to fight tooth and nail to stick together.

However, amongst the millions, there will inevitably be children who are alone. In the world of fostering, these children are referred to as ‘unaccompanied minors’.

Lovely as it is for the Brown family to take Paddington home with them, in real life, this is just not possible, or safe.

If you’re interested in caring for a child, whether they are escaping a war, or escaping domestic violence and abuse, you have to be an approved foster carer.

Becoming an approved foster carer can take at least 4 months, and involves background checks, training and a detailed approval process. (You can find more about it in my other blogs).

I am sure many of us can see the need and want to help now. However to ensure the safety of these highly vulnerable children, and to ensure our own safety, we need such carers to be vetted, trained and supported.

If you’re interested in finding out more about becoming a foster carer, please contact your Local Authority or me.