Sunday, October 11, 2015


If you're a foster parent, maybe you shouldn't try too hard to make Christmas perfect this year.

It was terribly sad that 1700 people have lost their jobs with the closure of that steel plant at Redcar,

Reason Christmas is in my mind is that the TV interviewed lots of local people about the Redcar closure; the men all talked about staging protests and marches. The women talked about something else;

"Christmas is coming". It made me realise how huge Christmas is, how hugely we want it to be perfect.

You have to feel for families who are strapped for cash at Christmas; it's so expensive. And you want your children to get as good as everyone else.

You have to feel for every family who are heading towards Christmas with some bits missing. It might be that the thing that's missing is a wage. Or maybe something worse.

It's a time when parents try to create heaven on earth for the family, especially for their children. A big build-up, then a few days of sheer bliss. Takes the curse off all the little miseries and disappointments of everyday life. The fears and worries are balanced with the prospect of something magical.

For many families there is something arguably even worse than unemployment at Christmas; the family has been broken up and fanned out across the county. The children taken into Care.

And one of them is in your home.

Year after year I struggle to get across to anyone who hasn't fostered how harrowing Christmas can be for children in Care. 

It's the same every year; massive hopes of perfection, massive run-up, school Nativity, carol services, carol singers at the door, Jim Carrey films on at 2.30 in the afternoon, trembling excitement at bedtime on Christmas Eve.

As a foster parent, looking after your foster child through Christmas is complicated by your duty of looking after your family.

It's an Almighty challenge. Every foster child is different, and never more unique than over Christmas in your home. The specifics of their family - the one which is broken up - and their personal problems are magnified by the effort you're putting into getting it right for your family - the one which is together.

You hope they pick up some good vibrations from your efforts:

Your thoughfulness and effort about gifts and food. Your improvisation to cope with Uncle Tony''s Boxing Day forgetfulness,  and Auntie Lorraine's urge to sing after (allegedly) only her second white wine. Juggling invitations so the two cousins who refuse to talk to each other get an invite they can accept. Sorting out all the step-parent complications.

You lie awake one night, around December 28th, with the New Year hoo-hah still ahead and realise that maybe for your foster child the most rewarding thing about Christmas with your family is that your family isn't perfect either.

I remember a social worker telling me that more children have to be taken into Care during school holidays than in term time, because that's when the parents find it hardest to cope. I've also been told that there are more family bust-ups over Christmas than any other time. 

I love Christmas, I love going the extra mile for the foster children. 

But. Here it comes...



  1. Brilliant; what a true and well understood reflection of the festive complications for our children in care :)