An inspirational Wigan couple are gearing up to see in the new year with a foster child.
Tracy and Darrell Woodward have been foster carers for six years, housing nine young people in that time but nine-year-old Tom (not his real name) is their first placement with Wigan Council and it has also been his first festive season away from home.
Tom is autistic and cannot communicate through speech, so Tracy and Darrell have been thinking of how they can be interactive and give Tom the most magical winter.
Tracy said: “Tom has been with us for six weeks and although communicating can be challenging, we’re making real progress.
“We use communication cards and do really interactive activities together such as baking and art.
“You can see the delight on his face and through his actions – he’s always giving out cuddles!
“We had quite a low key Christmas this year spending a lot of time with close friends and family as we didn’t want to overwhelm Tom. He has a great relationship with my daughter, so Christmas dinner was at her house this year.”
Wigan Council also provided Tracy and Darrell with the opportunity to take part in their Autism-Friendly training, equipping them with the skills and knowledge they will need to understand Tom’s processes.
Tracy added: “The council have been incredible.
“We knew people before we moved to the borough who are foster carers with Wigan Council and they always spoke really highly of the service, which was a big factor in our decision to move.
“We wouldn’t have been able to maintain this placement without the amazing help from the fostering team - nothing has been too much to ask.”
The Woodward family, which also includes Tracy and Darrell’s biological son, Austen, 19, helped Tom make Christmas cards for his birth mum and brother, who he has contact with every week and saw just after Christmas Day.
Council chiefs say they are pleased to hear about families like the Woodwards who “go the extra mile” for children in care.
James Winterbottom, director for children’s services at Wigan Council, said their efforts had meant youngsters in care were able to enjoy Christmas Day.
He said: “Christmas can be a difficult time for children in care, so it’s great to hear that families are going the extra mile to give people like Tom a really enjoyable day.
“High-quality foster carers are vital in ensuring we meet our ambitions of a safe family home for every child.
“We’re always looking for new foster carers to join us and we promise to provide the support you need right from the beginning of your fostering journey.”
If you’d like to find out more about fostering, head to www.wigan.gov.uk/fostering
Wigan’s fostering services are shared with neighbouring services in St Helens and Warrington.