Jessica’s experience shows how child fostering makes a positive difference in the long term, even if the situation is particularly emotive: being separated from your family at Christmas.
Her three sibling foster children arrived 12 days before Christmas. She didn’t receive confirmation that the children were staying longer until four days before the big day – which didn’t leave much time for festive planning.
That was three years ago. What was initially intended to be a four-day visit has turned into a long-term home for the children – now 9, 7 and 4. This year, they are looking forward to Christmas.
Difficult first Christmas
The first Christmas, things were difficult and the foster siblings were “very traumatised”. The younger children had attended a church school. Being taken away before the end of term meant they’d missed taking part in Christmas prayers, giving thanks and love for Jesus. For the middle foster child in particular, who was four at the time, this was a source of distress.
Their schools were an hour away from their foster home and it was logistically impossible to get them there for the last few days of term, so they missed their Christmas parties and jumper days. Even the fact that their advent calendars were with their birth families was upsetting for them.
In addition, the siblings had been placed into child fostering on a voluntary care order. This meant they had three contacts with their birth parents every week which, while positive in some ways, was especially difficult over Christmas.
Jessica had her work cut out. As an experienced and trained foster carer, she put simple plans into place to help the foster children settle in, ease their anxiety and start developing a bond with them. As a family, they chose simple gifts, cancelled Christmas parties and stayed at home together over the holiday.
This year, the children are looking forward to Christmas.
“In our house, the children leave a sock for Santa on Christmas Eve,” Jessica said. “They can each choose where they want to leave it and he fills it with gifts. They open these in the morning and then the bigger presents downstairs are from us.”
Jessica and husband, Jay have two birth children, 15 and 13, alongside their three foster children. She admitted it’s a big logistical exercise to buy all of the Christmas presents.
“We treat them all exactly the same. Each child has a big gift and a few smaller gifts. I start buying them in January and have a plastic storage box in the loft for each of them. As I see something I think they’ll like, I buy it and put it into the box.
“On their birthdays, the boxes get emptied and I start all over again. In my former life I was a personal assistant and this is a bit like that!”
Why Jessica provides a foster home for kids
Jessica had wanted to foster all her life. After being made redundant from her job, Jessica made contact with her local National Fostering Group team. As a family, they discussed the idea of becoming foster carers and agreed to go ahead.
“We say we’re ‘fraud foster carers’ because we’ve only ever had one placement,” she joked. “The children were so young and came to us in as an emergency. We never expected they would stay but they have and they are doing really well.
“Of course, there are some tough days. They all seem to have a meltdown on same day and at the end of week you feel like that flannel you leave on the edge of the bath!”
Jessica and Jay’s foster children are all doing well. The eldest loves cubs and swimming and has been participating in cubs via Zoom since lockdown so he doesn’t miss out. The middle child loves art and dancing, and the youngest has recently started school. They have formed close bonds with the family’s birth children and all are looking forward to Christmas.