Help CatholicCare’s gift giving tree share the love at Christmas


For many of us it’s a joyous time, celebrating the birth of Christ and encompassing family traditions, celebrations with friends, gift-giving and the sharing of food. However, for the 10,000 children and young people living in Permanency Support Programs (foster care) in Newcastle, the Hunter and Central Coast, it can be a very different story.

“For many of these children and young people, Christmas is a joyful time − yet there can also be a sense of grief and loss. With such a strong focus on family traditions and events, children may be anxious about the whereabouts of their birth family,” Permanency Support Program Development Manager, Virginia Tsang, said.

CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning implements a number of strategies to support and assist our wonderful carers to help navigate the emotional journey of children and young people during this time.

“Our best advice for carers is to be prepared. Spend time with the children and young people and learn about each other’s family traditions, beliefs and culture − especially those who came to live with you when they were a bit older. What may seem a given in most families, such as decorating a Christmas tree and leaving out milk and carrots for Santa and his reindeer, may be quite foreign for some children and young people,” Virginia said. 

“It’s also really important to prepare the children and young people for what to expect during the Christmas period, ahead of time. Insight as to who will be visiting, where they may be going and what happens on Christmas day can all help to lessen confusion and anxiety,” Virginia said.  

As the year draws to a close, CatholicCare hosts its annual Permanency Support Christmas Party for children, young people, their carers and families.

“Christmas is a time to come together and with the right support in place, we find most children are receptive to joining in celebrations. Our Christmas party is a great way for children, young people and carers to connect and have a fun time. This year we will be celebrating at Lambton Swimming Pool, with Santa coming to deliver presents,” Virginia said.

“A lot of joy can come from gift giving. It’s a wonderful opportunity to encourage the children and young people to communicate and connect with their community, families and friends,” Virginia said.

This year, CatholicCare will be launching its Christmas Gift Giving Program. Members of the community are being encouraged to donate presents for children in care, to signify they are cared for and loved.

Laura Monroe of Broadmeadow said she will be assisting her children, Ruby and Cillian, to select a present for CatholicCare’s Christmas Gift Giving Program.

“I moved to Australia from Ireland, with my husband Niall, around seven years ago. During that time I have come to love the sense of community in the Hunter. Even though we don’t have any family living here, I feel fortunate to be connected with so many wonderful people,” Laura said.

“Donating to CatholicCare’s Christmas Gift Giving Program is important to our family of four, as it is a small way we can show our support for the vulnerable in a community that has embraced us so lovingly.

“As a mother to two young children, I think it’s a great way to model the need to be considerate of others and show compassion. Too often we all get caught up in what we would like for Christmas or our birthday, so this is a nice way to encourage the children to stop and think about people whom they may never meet but can still have a positive impact on,” said Laura.

Christmas gift giving trees will be based at the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle’s Hunter Street Office and at CatholicCare’s offices located in Mayfield (Newcastle), Cardiff (Lake Macquarie), Gloucester, Forster, Taree and Singleton, with people encouraged to take a tag with the gender and age listed and buy for that child specifically, or purchase a present and label it accordingly.

For those who are unable to get to these offices, gifts can also be dropped off at local Catholic schools.

CatholicCare asks that gifts be provided unwrapped, so that the staff and volunteers can distribute them according to the interests of the children in care.

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Lizzie Watkin Image
Lizzie Watkin

Lizzie is Team Leader Content for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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