The best Christmas: Rolfe’s story
23rd Nov, 2017
As Christmas draws near, our household really gets into the spirit of planning a big family day. There’s the ritual of sending and receiving wish lists, buying gifts, wrapping them up and hiding them from prying eyes. There’s the Christmas dinner prep, sending party invites, selecting wine, choosing the colour scheme, decorating the house and the buzz of putting up the tree. (After the annual artificial-or-real debate, of course.) And there’s carol singing, making Boxing Day plans, visiting the neighbours for drinks, filling the fridge with Christmas snacks, watching the pile of gifts grow under the tree and New Year plans. We have so many festive traditions and happy moments to enjoy.
Away from the warmth of our festive home, another house is having a very different advent. Instead: an argument. A smack across a little boy’s face. ‘Uncle’ visiting his bedroom. But this time, it’s the last time. Because at last, social services have stepped in.
The little boy, Joe, sits in the back of a social worker’s car, not hearing her reassuring words as he clutches his black bin bag of belongings to his chest as the world goes by, taking him further away from all he’s ever known.
That’s when my family got the call from Foster Carer Associates’ placements team. It was the day before Christmas Eve and little Joe desperately needed somewhere to stay.
They’d called countless foster carers, the social worker told me. But no one was willing to take a new foster child in over Christmas. They already had plans, or had made other commitments. They weren’t prepared for a foster child. Their Christmas was just for family. It was looking like a real possibility that Joe would be spending Christmas on his own. Could I help?
It was a big ask. Inviting a foster child into your home is a big decision at the best of times. I could sympathise with the other carers before me who had said no to Joe. Our spare room was due to be for Christmas guests in a couple of days. And our plans hadn’t catered for a foster child. ‘I’ll call you back,’ I told the social worker.
Joe’s story had really moved me. The thought of a little boy who had just been taken away from his family spending and Christmas on his own made me really appreciate how special the Christmas I was organising with my family was.
I called my sister and arranged for my guests to stay with her instead. Then I told the family that we’d have a new little guest in the house this Christmas – some plans might change a little, but it’s Christmas as usual. After all, giving Joe the space he needs is so much more important than any meal or party, no matter the time of year. His need is more than my whole family’s combined. It’s why I’m a foster carer, and my family understand that.
I call the placements team back and tell them to bring Joe over. Clearing the spare room of presents and changing the bed for him doesn’t take long. Neither does popping to the shops for some extra sweets and burgers to feed our new family member, who’s surely hungry.
When the knock at the door comes, Joe is still sat in the car with his black bin bag.
‘Hello, Joe?’ I say to him, ‘Welcome to the best Christmas we can give you. It might not be perfect, but you’re welcome to everything we have. Let’s get you settled in.’
His expression was pained as he came into our home that first day, just days before Christmas. But that’s how it is sometimes. And after some good food and a few games on the PlayStation, Joe was chatting away as though he’d been with us for months.
In fact, Joe settled in so well, he ended up staying with our family for six years.
You never know when the right foster child for your family will come along. Christmas might not sound the ideal time to start a new foster placement to you now, but I wouldn’t change choosing to foster Joe that Christmas for anything. If I hadn’t said yes, I know that every Christmas after I’d wonder: ‘What happened to that little boy? Did he spend Christmas alone?’ and how I’d had the power to give him the Christmas he deserved, but didn’t.
Don’t delay, contact FCA to find out how you can make a difference to a child’s life.
Call 01527 810436 or enquire here https://www.thefca.co.uk/contact/