Christmas in the Halliday house is like a military operation.
Jan Halliday, 65, is a foster mother for Child Youth and Family caring for five children, along with 10 from her own family.
Four are permanent, she received a newborn baby last Friday, and has raised five biological and five stepchildren.
Her newest addition is one of a number of children nationwide expected to be taken into care over the holiday period.
Ministry of Social Development figures obtained under the Official Information Act show that last year, 14 South Island children were taken from their families and placed in care between December 21 and January 10.
With more than 20 years of fostering under her belt, Halliday does not remember how many children have passed through her doors but it is a job she loves.
"I always believed children should have a good chance. It's not their fault how they are born or what they're born into," she said.
Halliday started fostering with her husband, offering respite and holiday care. After becoming hooked, the couple opened their home to needy children fulltime.
Since her husband's death, Halliday has received an Excellence in Foster Care Award, and her 14-year-old foster son received a William Wallace Award, honouring outstanding children in care.
The reason for her passion is simple.
"If someone needs a home you give it, if someone needs some love you show it."
Since the number of children taken into care over the holiday period spiked at 33 in the South Island in 2008, cases have more than halved.
In 2012, 14 children in the South Island were taken into care in that time frame. In the Auckland region, there were 25 cases.
Last year, five children were taken into care on either Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year's Day nationwide.
CYF deputy chief executive Bernadine Mackenzie said at any one time 4000 children were living in foster care.
Christchurch Family and Foster Care Association chairwoman Jill Hurrell said more children tended to be taken into care around Christmas.
"Over the years, Christmas used to be quite a bad time," she said.
Respite care was also offered over the festive season, as sometimes caregivers wanted to go away, needed the children gone by a specific date, or simply could not house them.
Hurrell, who used to be a foster mother, said most caregivers loved Christmas as a foster family because it "is always big". She had heard foster care agencies in Christchurch were "extremely busy" and did not have enough caregivers.
Hurrell once housed 17 children at one time, including her biological children, and had 502 children in five years.
"You are, at the end of the day, just a mum and dad," she said.
- © Fairfax NZ News