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“Every child deserves the magic of Christmas” – Sheila’s story

Thumbnail from Sheila's video - what if you've never had a Christmas?

Thursday 30 November 2023

Thursday 30 November

“Every child deserves the magic of Christmas!” – foster carers help vulnerable children experience Christmas magic for the first time

This December, as many families decorate the tree and prepare for Father Christmas to visit, foster carers are bringing the magic of Christmas to vulnerable children who have never experienced it before.

Foster carer Sheila said: “There are children of all ages in Essex who have never woken up to the magic of Christmas, don’t know what Christmas dinner is and think Father Christmas won’t come because they’re ‘too naughty’. It’s heart-breaking.”

In the past year (2022/2023) over 500 children came into care across the region. Essex County Council is urging foster carers from all backgrounds to step forward and offer a safe, nurturing home for a vulnerable child in need, and offer them the joy of precious childhood experiences.

Sheila and Paul have been foster carers with Essex County Council for 13 years, fostering 38 children in total, as well as being parents to their daughter Katie. The couple currently foster three young boys.

Sheila said: “When the boys first arrived with us three years ago, they didn’t believe in Father Christmas. They were told that they were ‘too naughty for Christmas presents’, which was heart-breaking to hear from a six-year-old. They had never experienced Christmas and didn’t even know what a cracker was.

“Paul and I went on a mission to help them believe in Father Christmas. We watched all the festive films and we decorated every room in the house (even the toilet!). Paul dressed up as Father Christmas – he does it every year, visiting friends’ and neighbours’ houses on Christmas Eve.

“By Christmas morning, the boys believed Father Christmas was real. They came running into our bedroom telling us Father Christmas had left them presents. They were so excited, they dragged their stockings upstairs, tipped the presents onto our bed and started opening them. We then cooked a Christmas dinner, crackers included, and celebrated as a family. All three boys said it was their best Christmas ever.”

Christmas can often be a sensitive, overwhelming time for children in care, with many not understanding Christmas and wanting to be with their families.

Sheila explained: “Luckily for us, the boys think of us as their family. Being able to bring back the magic and give children that special feeling around Christmas time is just amazing. In our house, every child wakes up to a stocking-full of presents.

“It’s important for older children, too, because they’re still children. They might be 14 or 15, even 18, but if they’ve never experienced Christmas, they need to. Christmas is Christmas, and it should be magical, no matter how old you are.

“If children are living in a safe, loving environment, they can experience that magic. Every child deserves a magical Christmas.”

Councillor Beverley Egan, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Early Years said: “It is heart-warming to hear the incredible difference that foster carers like Sheila and Paul make to the lives of vulnerable foster children, by giving them special experiences and restoring the childhood magic of Christmas time.

“If you could share your home and make a difference to a child’s life, we urge you to consider our variety of fostering opportunities. You can make such a big difference from as little as a weekend per month, including long-term, part-time and weekend care.”

On 9 December, Essex County Council hosted a Christmas party for children and their carers. Guests had the chance to meet Father Christmas, watch a UV puppet show, and play a range of fun games. The Council are also excited to welcome retired javelin thrower Fatima Whitbread to the party, who has a passion for foster care.

Essex County Council need to recruit 60 more foster carers every year. Carers of all ages from all walks of life are welcome. To find out more about fostering with Essex County Council, visit, call 0800 801 530 or find out more @essexadoptandfoster.


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