Running through the fields with his pet chickens pecking at his feet, 14-year-old Rory is starting to settle into life in a children’s care home.
He has been living here since it opened in July and shares it with just one other boy and their care workers – though more kids are soon to join them.
In its idyllic rural setting, with apple trees and a lake for fishing, the home is far from the residential care institutions people imagine.
This is particularly important for Rory, who has never lived in a children’s care home before.
It certainly helped to be able to bring his four chickens with him to the home in Tan-y-Bryn, North Wales.
He says: “I’ve had a lot of help to get settled in. It’s been extremely important to have the chickens with me. I hatched them and they wouldn’t be able to survive with someone else.
“I feed them, water them, empty their pen, put down new hay and collect their eggs. They’ve settled in really well.”
His home is run by Action For Children, for which generous readers have already raised £38,841 in our Give Kids a Cracking Christmas appeal.
The home focuses on green therapy and getting kids outdoors.
Rory says: “It’s really good because I like playing with my chickens, walking, cycling and fishing.”
Such initiatives have changed the life of Ieuan Read, 16, who has been in a nearby Action For Children home for eight years.
Staff at Tan-y-Bryn used to work at the other residence and Ieuan still visits them.
He says: “Some of them are like a mum and dad to me.”
How you can donate
There are many ways that you can support homes like Rory's.
Send a cheque payable to Action for Children to Daily Mirror Christmas Appeal, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5AP
Text MIRRTEN to 70175 to donate £10 to Action for Children, MIRRFIVE to 70175 to give £5 or MIRRTHREE to 70175 to donate £3. Action for Children will receive 100% of your donation.
To donate but opt out of all future communications text MIRRTEN NO or MIRRFIVE NO or MIRRTHREE NO to 70175
By phone: To make a donation, call 0300 123 2112
Online: Donate or buy a virtual gift online at www.iamsanta.org.uk/mirror
Rory's name has been changed.
Christmas can be challenging for the kids, who have suffered early-life trauma, neglect and family breakdown.
Registered manager Caroline Morris says: “We want to make it as normal as possible for young people having Christmas in care.
“Christmas Eve is when they tend to get really excited, so we take them out to get rid of all their energy and anxieties. And we give them a Christmas Eve box with matching pyjamas.
“Christmas day is really normal. The kids usually get up really early and come down into the lounge and they have an area each with all their presents.
“Then it’s just the normal roast dinner – eat lots, play games and have fun together.”
The living room is decorated with a tree and the kids are treated to pantomime and ice-skating outings.
Residential worker, Ali Eccles, added: “Christmas can be a difficult time and we recognise some children will be thinking of their family so we try to take in a pantomime and go ice-skating and make it as much of a celebration as possible.
“I find it emotional as I’m adopted too, so I empathise with them and know what it’s like.
"But that’s why I’ve come back to work in the care system – to try and make a difference.”
There are 85,000 kids in care in England and Wales, and 9,900 live in residential settings such as children’s homes.
Action for Children wants to make the transition as easy as possible.
As well as counselling, youngsters have access to therapy dogs such as Labrador Taffy, who bounds up to us in the garden.
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