Foster parents have a crucial role to play at Christmas to make sure children living with them feel included and special on this important day – A survey by ‘Who Cares?’
Trust (a charity which works with children in care) has found that children mostly enjoy Christmas more than they did before they went into care, but that there were issues around feeling out of place or intruding on family gatherings. The survey found that the festive season can be a difficult time for children in care, when they see everyone around them celebrating with their families.
It is also very important to make sure children know well in advance what the plans for Christmas are and whether and when they will see their birth families.
Think about how they are feeling: Foster parents should be sensitive to how a child might be feeling at this time, particularly if they are in a new placement or if it’s their first Christmas in care. An astounding 10% of placements, have broken down during or because of Christmas.
Get the child/ren involved: Asking children’s’ opinions and getting them to help with things like the decorations and food for the day are also important to make them feel included. Most children (89%) said they thought of Christmas as a “happy time” and it emerged foster parents played a huge role in making that the case. Reasons included: “Because I’ve been with my foster family now for seven years and they’re like my real family”; “my foster mom and dad always make it special and fun and keep us nice and warm, we have lots of nice things to eat” and “my foster parents don’t treat me like a child in care, they treat me as one of their own and I like that!”
Being away from family However, the 11% who said Christmas was a “sad time” cited reasons like “as much as your foster family make you feel a part of their family at Christmas, they will be surrounded by their biological family and you will know in the back of your mind that you won’t ever have that bond”. Of the 5% who said they were not looking forward to Christmas, reasons included: “Just another day, never has been special” and “Christmas in one of the times I find the hardest and loneliest times of the year and I find it difficult to cope. I am hoping to be able to work throughout Christmas.”
The fact that most young people in care felt that Christmas was a happy time for them, is very reassuring. “It’s clear that good relationships between carers and young people make an enormous difference, and that all foster parents should be sure that they go to great lengths to make young people feel part of the planning for Christmas”!