Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Cheer

Never mind the first ever cold planning committee (did someone forget to pay the heating bill in the library?) nor the petitions and all the letters still arriving about Preston Park, nor the fact that we'd forgotten to buy the tree in the midst of all the activity of the last few days. This evening was one of the most important events in the life of a small but important part of the council. Tonight children in foster care came along with their foster carers and families to the Christmas party. It's a long time since I've been to a disco with such loud music. The flashing light patterns were a long way from the twirling coloured ball of my youthful dances or even the early disco lights of children's parties in the seventies and eighties. These were a sight to behold.
There were balloons, cakes, quiches, pizza, sausages, sausage rolls, sandwiches, crisps - the tables were almost groaning under the goodies on them. Then of course there were the children. I'd have loved to fill this blog with photos but it wouldn't be appropiate. Tiny babies through toddlers to teens, some in fancy dress costumes, some in their party outfits. There were young foster parents, old ones and middle aged ones. The excitement of the children as they won prizes in games, the thrill of seeing Father Christmas arrive, the pride in their fancy dress costumes - I could go on for ever. I was called upon to help with judging the fancy dress competition. We thought it would be really difficult but in fact there were 3 which stood out as having been home made. I have a picture in my mind of the family working on them together - a tinsel christmas tree, mother goose and the cutest little shepherd boy imaginable. And then there was the King - making such an effort to walk round keeping his crown intact on his head. Lots of runner up prizes of course, including some for slightly older children who had helped little ones.
And why is it so important? Because the Council is the corporate parent of those children. Councillors and officers have a joint responsibility for them. They're not in care because they're naughty nor because theyr'e being punished. They're in care because for some reason their birth parents can't care for them. That more often than not leaves them hurting, vulnerable and in need of love. As corporate parents we can't give them the love at first hand, but we can support the social workers and the carers who do give it. That's why, in the midst of all the busy preparations for my own family Christmas, it was important to go to celebrate with the children the fact that someone loves them this Christmas, maybe not the person they'd most like it to be but someone at least who gives them love, shelter and care. If that's not the spirit of Christmas then what is?
So no photos but lots of pitures in my mind. And a deep sense of gratitude and pride that in our borough there is a social work team which holds all this together and a small army of foster carers who enable children to have a family, however temporary. Thank you one and all!

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