Every year since 2009, a charity run by volunteers try to do their bit during Christmas for children in foster care, with numbers now at over 6000 in Oranga Tamariki’s care.
By Irra Lee
Foster Hope is collecting new, unwrapped Christmas presents for foster children throughout the country as part of their annual gift drive. In particular, its chairperson Louise Allnutt said the charity was still looking for gifts for teenagers who are “the ones that get forgotten”.
Ms Allnutt told 1 NEWS a lot of children can enter care during Christmas time for a number of reasons, like financial pressure or parents with drug and alcohol problems.
She said the presents, as a top-up, helped these children feel valued.
“We’ve had people that have received beautiful handmade quilts. And they [the children] are just so blown away that they’re actually entitled to something that beautiful,” she said.
“For them to know that somebody out there, when they might feel that the whole world is against them and doesn’t care, that somebody does.”
Foster Hope’s Christmas drive started as a teddy bear drive. Ms Allnutt partnered with a foster mum who wanted to give a toy that children could take from placement to placement.
Throughout the year, the charity works with agencies to give backpacks to children entering care. Ms Allnutt said she started the charity after finding out some of these children arrived with only the clothes on their backs, especially if they were put into care quite suddenly. Ms Allnutt estimated about 5000 backpacks were given last year.
She said teenagers were also often forgotten when it came to people donating items for the care packs.
However, she said while Christmas presents were appreciated, the festive season is also a good time for people to think about whether they could become a foster carer.
“It’s incredibly rewarding. It really can change the life of a child,” she said.
“Even a short placement helps. A 25-year-old the other day who had been through care and had a pretty rough ride through the care system said when they were 16, they went into a family.
“They were only there for three months. But, they said it was those three months they modelled their adult life and their family life on because they, for the first time, saw what it was like to live in a family.
“It’s not usual for a child to be sitting by a social worker’s desk on a Friday afternoon and the social worker has no idea where that child is going to stay the night.”
The number of children in care has risen by over 1000 between 2013 and 2018. In that time, the number of caregivers has only risen by 400.
Oranga Tamariki statistics in June show over 6300 children are in its care.
Foster Hope’s gift drive will close on December 10, with details on their website about the types of gifts they are looking for and drop-off locations.