The excitement of Christmas is just about to start. This blog has been written with Christmas in mind. Still, it also applies to other celebrations of different faiths because generally, celebrations and festivities are predominately geared around family and unity – and sharing, giving and receiving is a big part of that.

Christmas time can be and should be a magical time for children, but many of our fostered children and young people find this time of year very stressful and challenging. On social media, television, billboards and advertising, the vision of the perfect family enjoying the festivities is constantly promoted. Think back to your childhood and then put yourself in the shoes of the children and young people you care for.

What if you are (or were) separated from your birth parents for whatever reason? How would you (or did you) feel?

The thoughts of our young people and children in care will revert to their previous situations, evoking some compelling emotions, both positive and negative, and many will have contact with birth family and relatives that may be particularly difficult around the holiday season. Despite the efforts of well-meaning Foster Carers, even asking a child to make a list of the gifts they would like can stir feelings of low self-esteem, negative energy, anger, and a lack of self-worth.

Many children find it challenging to allow Foster Carers to penetrate their defences at the best of times, but Christmas is a time when comparisons will come to the fore. Some children will have experienced their parents getting violent or even sleeping through Christmas day due to the effect of alcohol or drugs, with no Christmas lunch or presents to open. Is it any wonder that the number of missing children rises at this time of year, the behaviour support required by Foster Carers increases, the strain on many foster homes is exasperated, and the number of children that enter the care system escalates.

Fosterline’s Freephone advice line can help you with any concerns or issues you feel you may face over the festive period. Why not call and speak to one of our advisors on 0800 040 7675?

Some of the things you may experience as a foster carer could be:



Be aware that you are not alone, many this year are worried about the expense of Christmas and are likely to be cutting back. Make sure you understand the fostering allowances and whether/when any additional payments will be made to support with the cost of Christmas for the young person. Plan your celebrations within a budget that you can afford and consider using apps that may indicate the cheapest price for gifts or food. If you are having guests, it may be possible to share the costs for example by agreeing for them to bring a particular dish to contribute towards the meal. You may want to introduce secret Santa type arrangements within the extended family/friends to reduce the number of gifts and cost this Christmas.

Explore recipes that help use up leftovers to make quick and tasty meals reducing food waste and costs over the festive period. Remember that celebrations are about spending time with family and loved ones so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to “go big” with entertainment and focus on activities that promote this that are low cost such as family walks, baking or cooking together, crafts such as making Christmas decorations etc.



There may be additional worries and concerns that arise at this time of year for kinship Foster Carers. The carer themselves may have feelings of loss and sadness in relation to the relationship with the child’s parent(s) that may be their own son/daughter/sister/brother etc. that come to the fore when the spotlight is on family at Christmas. If not recognised and supported these feelings could be sensed by the child/children in their care and have a negative impact. Be aware of your own emotional needs and seek support for example via alternative support such as the organisation Kinship or if impacting on physical and emotional well-being via your GP.

The child/children in your care may also have conflicting emotions so encourage them to talk about how they feel and if they appear unwilling to discuss with you, identify other trusted adults in your network/at school who can offer a listening ear, offer reassurance and act on any concerns if needed. Support any contact/family time arrangements and listen to what the child wants. In the event of disagreements around these issues or if the child’s view is unclear independent advocacy may help to ensure the child’s voice is at the heart of any decisions made – you can talk to the child’s social worker about this or contact Fosterline for further advice.



So often, a child worrying about their family missing them is a way to show their insecurities by reflecting their feelings onto their parents. Many children will miss their parents or be worried about another family member. Often children will have been the primary caregiver for one or more members of their family.

  • Discuss family time/contact with your supervising social worker and the child’s social worker around Christmas.
  • It may be appropriate to arrange a phone call or Skype contact on, or around, Christmas day with birth relatives.
  • Provide photographs of school activities, and nativity plays for birth parents where appropriate.
  • Send a card and small gift with the foster child for parents to receive during contact/family time sessions.



Situations can often come to a head around this time of year, and it is not unlikely for Foster Carers to be asked to accept a child at late notice.

  • Include one or two generic presents that are non-gender specific and could cross a multitude of ages to your shopping list, wrapped and ready, just in case.
  • A small store of toys purchased in sales can always be used at other times of the year if not used during Christmas, for example, birthdays or rewards for achievements.



It is often the quirky routines that we carry out every year that stay with us into adulthood. If you think back to your childhood, there will be things that make you smile, and this is a chance to impart positive memories to others. Give careful thought to household traditions and the history of the child or young person in your care. For example, for some children and young people their room may be an intensely private space or perhaps a place that holds difficult emotions due to past experiences, so a tradition of placing a stocking with gifts at the bottom of the bed may not be appropriate for some but perhaps they may prefer it to be left under the Christmas tree instead?

It is important to involve children and young people in making festive plans and be open to new things as well as long held traditions; the child or young person may have a particular tradition they wish to share with their foster family so incorporate this if possible.

  • Mix oats and glitter and spread on the grass and path outside the door so Rudolph will know where to land (they should glisten in the moonlight).
  • Track Santa on NORAD online to watch presents being delivered worldwide, set a destination where once Santa reaches it, it is then time for bed.
  • Put a carrot and mince pie out before going to bed for the big man and Rudolph (ensure Santa has taken a bite by the morning light).
  • Dress the tree with some homemade decorations.
  • Make a Christmas cake or pudding or mince pie with your fostered children or a gingerbread house for the more adventurous.



Christmas is a time when the extended family comes together, often in large groups, which can be intimidating for our foster children and young people. Some extended family members may feel uncomfortable about your role as a Foster Carer, or many people care about the plight of children. They could have lots of questions that initially seem harmless but can give the impression of an interrogation.

  • Try to introduce adults and children beforehand wherever possible, in a less intimidating environment.
  • It may be appropriate to invite a friend of your foster child from school or a neighbour to give support and familiarity.
  • Identify people that your children will meet by photograph beforehand.



Safer care can help minimise the risk of allegations to any Foster Carer. The run up to Christmas may be an ideal time to review this with your supervising social worker to take account of changes such as; additional visitors to the home, new mobile phones or other devices for young people, any alcohol that may be in the home etc. In relation to attending parties and celebrations within the wider family/network be aware of guests invited to ensure any decisions to attend with the child/children is appropriate and discuss any concerns with your supervising social worker and child’s social worker. It may also be helpful to have strategies in place to deal with the unexpected attendance of a birth parent at a family party.



Be prepared to begin Christmas day at the crack of dawn or even before. The excitement will explode into your already busy day – join in and embrace it.

  • Ensure you have batteries, are any tools needed or scissors to get into boxes etc.
  • Have someone ready to build presents.
  • There will be tears, arguments, tantrums, disappointment coupled with delight, laughter, and noise – be prepared.
  • If anything goes wrong or the turkey gets burnt, make the most of it and try to laugh it off; it will all make for positive memories to look back on in the future.
  • Finally, make time for yourself, relax with a cup of tea in front of the TV while the children are dreaming in their beds.
  • Share the role of caring with your partner or your parents, or anyone within your support network.


Whatever you do, whatever your children present to you over the Christmas period, you can cope. Use your experience, trust your instincts, and remember you are a Foster Carer for a reason; you care, and you make a difference. Getting through the festive period may be difficult, but remember whether you are aware or not, you will be having an impact on all of the child’s future festive celebrations. You are not expected to know the answer to everything, so if in doubt, seek guidance and give one of our Fosterline advisers a call.

Make sure you are aware of your fostering service and any duty service outside of opening hours over the festive season along with the out of hours number for the local authority who has responsibility for the child available for emergencies.

We would like to wish all Foster Carers a very Happy Christmas from the team at Fosterline