Thousands of children around the world are opening the final door on their advent calendar this morning.
But for many children waiting to be adopted, the countdown to Christmas may be much more uncertain as they wait to be matched with their forever families.
Luckily, a UK adoption team working at Bournemouth Borough Council are using an advent calendar model to help youngsters come to terms with moving in with their new parents.
Different for every child, the ‘moving calendars’ chart the number of sleeps for the children waiting to move in with their new families, and chart the important steps along the way – including a first meeting, visiting your new home, and finally, the big day.
We spoke to David Rafelle from Bournemouth Borough Council, who explained how the moving calendars came about.
‘These calendars reassure children, so that they know exactly what is happening today, tomorrow and next week, as well as the day they will move in to be with their forever family,’ he explained.
‘The vast majority of children who need adoptive placements come into care with little or no preparation; one or two may have even been removed by police in the middle of the night.
‘We want the move to an adoptive placement to feel completely different.’
Each calendar is created by the team, with specific information about their new families – particularly useful as the Bournemouth team help a range of single people, same-sex and opposite-sex couples who are looking to give a child a home.
‘A couple of examples of messages behind the doors include: ‘Mummy Sally & Mum Penny are coming to meet you at Helen & Bob’s house’, Helen & Bob being the foster carers,’ David said.
‘Behind the last door an example would be: ‘Today you will be moving to your new home to live with Mummy Sally and Mum Penny for ever. How exciting!’.
‘Half way through it could include: ‘Today Helen will take you to see Mummy Sally and Mum Penny at your new home. You will be able to see your new bedroom’.’
Dad-of-two and councillor for Test Valley, Nick King, who has adopted twice through Bournemouth’s Adoption Team, told us about the positive influence the calendars had on both his children.
‘The support they gave us was absolutely brilliant,’ he said.
‘The calendars helped enormously with the transition from foster care to us.
‘It’s a scary and confusing time for a child. They know that their foster home is temporary, that their move to a ‘forever family’ will provide a permanent family but still, they are leaving a familiar environment to move to one that’s entirely alien.’
‘For both children it provided a focus for them. Counting down to the time they would begin to get to know their new Dads and most importantly providing vital structure to the coming days.
‘Structure and expectation management is so important during those vital first few days as the adoptive child gets to know their new parents and home.’
‘Similarly, when we adopted our daughter, after our son had been living with us for almost three years, the calendar Bournemouth Adoption provided helped frame the transition experience for him perfectly.
‘It managed his expectation of when and how he would meet his new sister, explained why she would not be spending the whole day with us to begin with and set an end point at which he knew we would become a family of four.’
David told us January is a busier time for adoption services, following a rest over the Christmas period where families are able to sit down and plan for the future.
‘I would advise anyone whose thoughts turn to adoption over the Christmas period to take the opportunity to find out as much as you can,’ he said.
‘A good starting point is the First4Adoption website www.first4adoption.org.uk who have vast amounts of resource articles.’