Since we adopted Ben, our son, we have been attending the Adoption Christmas Party every year, without fail. But this time around, proud of our new title of Foster Carers, we decided to go to our first Fostering Christmas Party instead.

The party was organised very nicely, with a DJ playing music (although clearly geared towards the children), a large buffet, and a grotto where the biggest Santa I’ve ever seen was dispensing kind words and gifts to all children. Ben was in awe of him, or completely terrified by him, it’s difficult to tell sometimes.

I was worried I would have felt out of place, or that I wouldn’t have known anyone. I went there expecting to be bored, just sitting in a corner with my husband Diego, waiting for the time to pass. Instead, to my surprise, we had lots of fun. We had a chance to meet again with many people we crossed path with during the fostering process. As for Ben, he danced, ate, played, sang: he owned the place and had a great time.

I would have never expected for the event to make me sad, though.

It couldn’t have lasted more than a minute, but for that time, I felt truly sorry. This was a very small and local gathering, yet I counted about 40 children and at least as many parents. They all lived nearby, and who knows how many more couldn’t make it to the party that night. What made me sad was realising, for the first time, how many children and families are involved in fostering, and how wrong it is that it should be that way.

Something else set this party apart from any adoption party, or actually any children’s party we ever attended, that made me proud to be part of it. The children were loud and boisterous as in any other party, and Ben made one or two a bad choices himself that night, but we never felt judged by the other parents. There was a ton of experience in that room, by comparison, my husband and I were complete novices, and I don’t think there was much that either Ben or any other child present could have done to impress them. But amazingly people were more preoccupied with helping than criticising.

Maybe it was because any of us could have ended up being the carer for anyone of these children, so in a sense, no one could claim ownership of them, but I soon realised that all the parents present in that room were looking after all the children around them, not just their own.

Depressingly sad and deeply proud in the span of a single party. What other party can do that?

This party will be forever special for me because it helped me realise I’m not alone, that other people not far away have done it before us, and that not only they can help, but they will also be willing to. But more importantly, what I learned that night is that to be at the Fostering Christmas Party, you truly need to be a carer.

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