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The John Lewis Christmas advert is renowned for pulling at the heartstrings, and this year’s tale 'The Beginner' is no different. For those who have missed it, the advert tells the story of a foster carer learning a new hobby (with varying levels of success) in order to try and bond with Ellie, a child in care who is coming to live with them for the Christmas period. Whilst the details may be aspirational, with many foster carers not having sufficient time to master a new skill, or much knowledge about the interests of the children in their care prior to their arrival, the message is clear - all children should feel cared about both this Christmas, and beyond.

In contrast to the heartwarming story, the advert also sets out the harsh statistics - this Christmas in the UK, there are 108,000 children in the care system, 70% of which will be in foster care placements (according to Become Charity). However, a child being placed in care is only the beginning of the story.

For many children in care, foster carers or placement workers go above and beyond to ensure that they have a fun, safe and stable Christmas. However, for both children and parents navigating a new placement, or Christmas in care for the first time, the story can be quite different. Become Charity finds that on average, 85 children are taken into care per day, which can be an upsetting and distressing time for both parents and children, compounded during the festive period.

At a time when many people are coming together with their families and loved ones, it may be that for children in care, contact with family members cannot take place on Christmas Day, particularly when contact centres used to facilitate family time are closed. Where family time cannot take place, it should be re-scheduled so that time is not missed out on,
as social services have a duty to allow reasonable contact with family members (Children Act 1989, s.34(1)).

When usual family traditions cannot take place, foster carers and placement workers are often central to ensuring young people in care have a merry Christmas. As the number of children in care grows, more foster carers are needed to provide them with safe and stable homes. More information about becoming a foster carer can be found at The Fostering Network. Support for young people in care and care leavers can be found at Become Charity, which has specialist support pages and tips for managing the festive season.

At Ramsdens Solicitors, our experienced Child Law solicitors understand that facing care proceedings can be a confusing and stressful time. If you need legal advice in relation to care proceedings, or more information on how we can support you regarding contact with a child in care, call us on 01484 821500 or email