At this festive family-centred time of year we are even more aware of Peter and Belle's families than usual, as well as the families of previous foster children we've cared for.
Peter's parents and siblings are spending their second Christmas without him. We recently took Peter to an informal contact session where we met up with all of his siblings and the various relatives and carers they live with, plus a smattering of other family members and their partners and children, saw Father Christmas and swapped presents. His siblings have started to ask why they can't all live together, and we know that Peter will be in their minds on Christmas Day, as they will be in ours.
Belle's parents are not only spending their daughter's first Christmas without her, but they have recently found out that the decision has been made for Belle to be adopted. We've never met them but regularly send and receive notes when Belle goes to contact sessions, and of course speak about them often with Belle's social worker. As the months go by and we learn more about their own stories, we start feeling like we know them a little. I can't imagine how they must be feeling now.
I've been thinking about Belle's forever family too and wondering who they are and what they're doing. They don't know it yet, and won't do for several months, but they will be spending their last Christmas without Belle in their family! They haven't even seen a photograph of her, but their tree next year will be decorated with adorable little hand and footprint crafts, they'll be hanging up a stocking with Belle's name on and getting excited about watching her open her presents on Christmas morning.
We're not in touch with Jack-Jack or Andy's forever families but we do think about them regularly, chat about how old they are now and wonder what they look like. Whether or not Belle's parents decide to keep in touch, and whoever we have in our family by that point, we'll definitely be thinking about her next Christmas too and wishing her well.
We've come to realise that fostering families just keep getting bigger!