The festive season is often busy and emotional but it can be a very different time of year for the hundreds of local children in foster care.
This Christmas people are being asked to spare a thought for children in care whilst foster families across the county gear up for the festive season.
Tracey and Ann are two foster carers in West Sussex who are helping to keep Christmas alive for children who are unable to spend it with their birth families.
Being in foster care can mean having a very different Christmas from what children and young people are used to.
“Fostering is even more special at Christmas. Christmas can be an emotional time of year but having lots of little faces around you - that’s special,” said Tracey.
Tracey and her husband became foster carers for West Sussex County Council in 2012 and they have supported many children and young people for different reasons.
Tracey, who currently offers the chance for a child to be fostered alongside one of their parents, said: “Some children aren’t used to presents or can get overwhelmed when there’s lots of family together, so you have to be flexible.
“My own family have had to adapt and change some of our own little rituals, but it has opened our eyes to other people’s traditions.”
Ann and her husband became foster carers with the County Council more than seven years ago and are looking after three siblings in long term foster care.
Ann said: “We invite our children to make or buy something for their birth family members so we can keep them in their minds in the run up to Christmas.
“The first Christmas they spent with us, we brought them bikes. Our own children were so excited they wrapped the bikes completely in paper for them – wheels, frame everything!
“Being part of a fostering family has made our own children appreciate the opportunities they have had. Christmas is a really exciting time as a family because now there are even more stockings for us to open! It makes it extra special.”
Ann and Tracey also benefit from sharing the festive season with the local community of almost 300 approved County Council foster carers.
Ann said: “Our local foster carer association, UFCA, organises seasonal family events and arranges discounted pantomime tickets. They’re tremendous and the kids absolutely love it!”
To find out more about fostering and information sessions taking place in 2018, visit www.westsussex.gov.uk/fostering.