Well, that was one of the best Christmases I can remember. We qualified as foster carers three years ago. It’s been great – a real roller coaster ride. Everything we were told to expect from fostering and a little bit more besides. Still, when we decided to become foster carers, we knew it wouldn’t be a walk in the park – far from it. My wife Rachel and I spent most of the year looking after a number of different children. The youngest was a girl of three who was only with us for a few days. We have also had a couple of teenagers. We then provided respite foster care for other foster care families.
The foster children we have had have all been great. We even looked after an asylum seeker for several weeks in the summer. That was a challenge, but he was a great lad – eager to please. He clearly enjoyed adding to his list of English words. Anyway, he was a found placement with an Iraqi foster family. That suited him just fine. It’s good to hear that he is making real strides forward. He is doing well and we hear his English is improving all the time. That’s what is so good about being part of a fostering community – you get to hear how youngsters are getting on.
Rachel and I were hoping to get a longer-term foster placement. We were delighted – especially with Christmas approaching – to be told by the agency they had a referral for Rose. She was a ten-year-old-girl. She had come into care several weeks ago and had already been looked after in several temporary placements.
It was a great day when she arrived – it was dusk and many of the houses in our street had light twinkling in their windows. Our preference was for a girl around six to twelve years: Rose had a big smile and an infectious grin. She did look rather pale. And she didn’t have much with her. What she did have fitted into just one carrier bag. That’s always sad, but with Christmas coming, we were determined to sort that out. I know she felt a bit awkward and lost at first. Rose didn’t have much to say – but that’s natural. And it wasn’t long before we could see she was settling in…
Christmas is a fantastic time – of course, it can be very poignant. It’s often especially sad for children who cannot be with their own families. If you are a foster carer, it is a great time to make a home especially warm and inviting. Maybe even a bit magical. Rachel and I had already decorated the house in the hope and anticipation of having a child with us. We had plenty of lights up around the front door. There was even an illuminated ‘reindeer’ in the front garden.
Our idea was that we would try and create the best possible Christmas imaginable. This would give us the best chance of getting a foster placement off to a great start. We had made the decision not to get a Christmas tree straight away. We reckoned a foster child would love the opportunity to choose one with us and then decide on how it should be decorated. So on the evening, Rose came to stay, we had plenty of lights up in our front room. This made it looks really cosy. Rachel and I had also decorated the spare room. We even hung fairy lights around the window frame. Rachel had the brainwave of sticking crackers to the wall over the bed. It made for a magical effect with them reflecting the light of the fairy lights.
In our front room, there was an obvious ‘tree’ sized gap by the fire. Once Rose had eaten, we told her the next day we would be going to choose a tree from the garden centre. And we would love to have her help us choose it. She gave us a very wide grin which told us it was a good idea. It was such a good idea that we were woken up before the birds the next morning. It was Rose knocking on our door asking if the garden centre was open. Unlikely, as it was only six o’clock in the morning! Certainly an early start – all part of being a foster carer!
We all got going after a hearty breakfast, pulling in at the garden centre just after ten. And before looking at the trees – Rose had clocked that Santa was already in his grotto. So a brief detour to see the man in red and Rose’s first Christmas present was organised. All it needed now was a tree to put it under. And that wasn’t going to be a problem. I have to say that your average garden centre is a great place to fill up on the Christmas spirit. The choice of trees – and colours – amazed Rose. There were white, green and even purple ones. She soon spotted a tree which was only about a foot tall,. As a special treat we got it for her room.
And then to the serious business: which tree would be taking up residence with us this year? After much deliberation, we picked out a real tree – over six feet tall. It was a handsome specimen for sure. We all then spent an enjoyable hour or so choosing the lights and decorations to adorn it.
Later that evening, we put out the main light in our front room and turned on the Christmas tree lights. It was a special magical moment…just to see the joy in Rose’s face.
Provide a foster home.
This will be for a vulnerable youngster who, for whatever reason, can no longer live with their own family. The minimum requirements to foster: a spare bedroom; over 21 years of age; a passion for improving the lives of children and young people and the willingness to support them with their education.
Rainbow fostering welcome all applicants to foster regardless of their ethnicity, religion or cultural background, sexual orientation or relationship status. Single people, couples, divorcees, married couples – with or without children of their own – can all foster a child or young person.
Would you like to foster a child, young person or a sibling group?
Call Rainbow on 020 8427 3355 – or our National Line 0330 311 2845
Comprehensive information about foster care is on our website – why not take a look at http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/foster-carers-christmas-activities/