Christmas has always been a busy time for the Wainwright family, having been foster carers for 15 years, but this year will be its busiest.
Tracey and Paul from Worthing love to have children about and now 23-year-old daughter Natalie has also become a foster carer, one of the youngest in the country, there are even more people to share in the festivities.
Tracey said: “We’re passionate about helping vulnerable children so having a busy house is just how we like it, especially at this time of year. It’s what Christmas is all about.
“We include the children in all our family traditions and they always love joining in and teaching us their own. It really helps them know they belong as part of our family and gives them that security they need.”
Natalie was 10 when her parents began fostering. She soon realised she wanted to care for children herself and last year, she was registered with West Sussex County Council at the age of 22.
Natalie said: “I’ve had people say I’m too young and I must miss out on a social life but I don’t feel like I miss out at all. I’ve met lots of new people, I go to mother and child groups and best of all, I’ve had all these beautiful experiences with these children that I wouldn’t change for the world.
“I grew up appreciating how important a good foster family was to a child who had been through difficulties. Seeing the difference it made accepting them and giving them the security they needed definitely inspired me to do it myself.”
There remains an urgent need for foster carers and Paul and Tracey have helped the council to develop a comprehensive new training programme, which is now being rolled out.
Paul said: “We’ve been doing it now for 14 years and it has enriched all our lives and brought us so much joy. It’s a fantastic sense of fulfilment seeing children who just need a second chance helped on to a better pathway.
“People have this idea that you need to have a perfect life, family and perfect children otherwise you won’t be able to foster. But no one is perfect and it’s how you overcome challenges and use that experience to be a better person and a better foster carer.
“I’m 67 now and I just want to continue fostering. We can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Full training, support and allowances are provided. For more information go to www.westsussex.gov.uk/fostering or telephone 033 022 27775.
Jacquie Russell, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “We are looking for adults of all ages, backgrounds and experiences to become foster carers with us. Our recruitment team is available to answer any questions you may have.
“Children who have had a difficult start deserve a second chance, so we are asking if you too could give a child the best gift of all, a safe and loving place to grow and develop.”