Two brothers who were taken into care at Christmas time nine years ago have recalled their first night with their foster parents.
Shane and Reece Smith (not their real surname) were taken into care when they were just seven and five respectively after their parents were deemed unable to look after them any longer.
The boys were placed with Elaine and Phil Jones (not their real surname) at their five-bedroom home in Aylesbury on December 9, 2005.
The youngsters arrived at their new home and were greeted with a display of brightly-coloured festive Christmas lights, homemade by Phil, on the outside of the house.
Elaine, who is in her 60s, said: “It must have been a scary time for them but I think it helped that they arrived to this Christmas wonderland!”
Nine years later Shane, now 16, and Reece, now 14, are settled, well adjusted boys that are ‘part of the family’.
The pair, who are doing well at a local secondary school, were never adopted but they say they’re happy with Elaine and Phil and will live there until they are old enough to move out.
Elaine said: “On their first night here they were pretty relaxed. We went upstairs to say goodnight to them and they were laid back with their hands behind their heads, smiling like Cheshire cats.”
Shane said: “I remember coming in and having a look in every room, and then going upstairs to my bedroom where there was a big wardrobe and a shelf full of toys.”
Reece said: “I remember we both got bikes for presents on our first Christmas with Elaine and Phil.
“Shane wanted to have his stabilisers off about half an hour, then he rode it straight into the door!”
Shane is still bike mad now, but it’s more the motorbike variety and he is often found tinkering with his classic Suzuki X1 in the garden.
He said: “I hope to get an apprenticeship at a motorbike garage when I leave school next year.
“I did some work experience at one a little while ago and I really loved it.”
Reece is the mathematician of the family and hopes to study accountancy when he leaves school.
Elaine and Phil have eight grown up children between them and had always harboured a dream to foster children.
They decided to take the plunge 11 years ago and haven’t looked back since.
Elaine said: “We had the space and we had the time, so we thought ‘why not?’. What I would say is, start off by doing short-term fostering, like holiday relief, to make sure it’s right for you.
Phil, who is a carpenter for the Vale of Aylesbury Trust, said: “A lot of these kids have been moved around a lot, so you need to give them stability.
“It’s really worthwhile, we get a lot out of it.
“We can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Elaine said that it is a common misconception that all children who are fostered are ‘problem’ kids.
She said: “These two are better behaved than most teenagers their age! They’re cheeky, confident and they’re doing really well at school. They’re just like our own sons.”
To find out how to get involved in fostering, visit www.buckscc.gov.uk/social-care/children-and-families/ fostering.