How much do you earn for looking after me?

Could the The two Couples in The Good Life foster? Theoretically yes, but I’m not sure Margot would have the resilience or patience.

We fostered a kid who had night terrors.

Not every night, but enough nights to make your adrenaline run high when you went to bed.

Would this be a night when you’d all get to sleep through until the morning, or would one of us have to do the ‘night shift’?

We’d worked out via trial and error, and by doing a search on Mumsnet, that the best response to this little boy screaming at 3.00AM, was to wake him up get him up, do an activity, and then do the whole bedtime routine again. If you were lucky, you’d be back in bed within an hour.

When it was my turn, me and the Little Fella would go downstairs, get a drink and watch TV.

The TV choice was critical.

If it was too exciting, you’d never get him back up to bed.

3.00AM is also a dangerous time to flick through channels.

I invariably aimed for UK Gold, and in particular The Good Life’, the ‘70s sitcom about Middle Class pomposity!

The irony of watching Margot Ledbetter berate her husband for eating a takeaway curry in the lounge with a kid who’d lived by finding food in bins was not lost on me, and the suburban eccentricity and animal husbandry seemed to engage and calm him.

On one occasion my mind drifted to Maths.

How much was I earning to do this random one hour night shift?

I divided the number of hours in the month by the amount we were paid.

I think it was about £1.73 for the hour, split between me and my wife.

When we first looked into Fostering, I had no idea how complicated and competitive the whole ‘industry’ was.

I saw an advert for fostering on the back of a bus suggesting we were earning a small fortune. The foster kid in the passenger seat saw the advert too. The reality was less than £2 per hour spilt between the two of us.

I thought fostering was about looking after kids, who had no one else to look after them.

To a large extent, I was right, and that’s what Foster Carers do.

What I didn’t know is that you can foster for your Local Council, an Independent Fostering Agency or a Charity.

I’m bound to get some of the legalities and nuances wrong, but this is my blog, not a legal document so you’ll just have to bare with me and my generalisations.

All the kids in care are fundamentally in the care of the Council.

Only recognised authorities can remove a child from its family. Only recognised authorities can manage the care of a child with no family to look after them.

When a child comes into care, Social Workers will first try and find a family member or friend to look after them.

When no suitable aunt, uncle or grandparent can be found, the child will go into Mainstream Care.

We became Mainstream Foster Carers in 2010.

Social workers will try and match the child with the ‘most suitable carer.’ As much as they can, they’ll look at age, ethnicity, gender and any other information to find a Carer where the child will feel safe and thrive.

This is an inexact science, and often has to be done with enormous time pressures.

Everyone wants it to work out, but sometimes it doesn’t and ‘good enough’ sometimes has to suffice. Sometimes even the ‘good enough’ standard isn’t met.

Council Social Workers will usually first try to place a child with their own Council Foster Carers.

They’re more likely to know these Carers, they will be local, and it’s often the most cost effective.

If the Social Worker can’t find a Council Foster Carer, they’ll ask Independent Foster Agencies to use one of their Foster Carers.

Some IFAs are small companies with just a few employees and a relatively small pool of Carers.

Others are massive.

Some IFAs are part of a portfolio of companies, owned by Hedge Fund Companies, which are based in Tax Free Havens, I think.

But their Foster Carers and Social Workers do the same job as Council Foster Carers; look after kids.

I think Foster Carers are great, regardless of who they foster for.

Some Agencies, pay more than some Councils. Some Councils offer better training than some Agencies. Council Foster Carers are more likely to be ‘full’ and some IFAs insist that you give up your job, as you work for them. Some Agencies answer the phone quicker than some Councils.

Generalisations are irrelevant if you like your Social Worker, feel supported, and the kid you’re caring for is happy.

Independent Fostering Agencies like to name themselves after trees, flowers or other bits of nature. Fostering is a competitive industry, with highly vulnerable children as its primary asset.

And this Little Fella was happy.

Although he liked watching The Good Life, he eventually grew out of the Night Terrors and began to sleep through.

We didn’t mind earning £1.73 per hour because what we were doing was a good thing.

But we’d have struggled if someone, somewhere, had been making a profit out of that boy’s situation.

And that’s why, we signed up with the Council, not an Agency.

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Birth parent, Foster Carer, Adopter and Recruiter of Foster Carers for Liverpool City Council

15 thoughts on “How much do you earn for looking after me?”

  1. Phil you are the reason we went with the council., after starting the process with an agency we met you at a library. We also felt that agencies were not for us if the children, but for the gain. Thank you for being there for us when we needed a hand to hold in the process.


  2. I only came across this piece because I monitor mentions of The Good Life online, in order to help promote our podcast which deep dives every episode of the show, but wanted to leave a quick comment just to say that it’s so lovely that the show played a part in calming your foster child’s night terrors! It’s amazing how many people have been in touch with us to say that The Good Life was like a lovely warm comfort blanket to them growing up, and your story shows this effect in action better than most!

    Finally, regardless of any pay (and it seems to be far from lucrative), I’m constantly in awe of the good folk that give themselves to fostering and helping kids in need of shelter and guidance. Great work and lovely to read this story.

    Eggs Benedict, SADDO podcast.


      1. Ah, Epsom. The source of the swinging epidemic heading to Surbiton in the mid 70s (at least according to Margo Leadbetter!)

        All the best,

        Eggs Benedict, SADDO podcast.


  3. Great blog Phil! This is one of the injustices of life that gets me on my soap box most frequently – as ever you summed it up really well and more politely than I may have – I remember discussing this with you when we were embarking on our fostering journey as we had little understanding of the difference between IFAs and Council Fostering. IFAs are very good at ‘selling’ themselves and can appear on the surface to be a preferable option for the carer and the child, but I’m glad we dug below the surface and consequently went with our LA option. Have you started that book yet?


  4. Absolutely. We fostered for our local council, even though we would have been paid significantly more if we’d gone with an IFA. That simply felt wrong; these children are in need of love and care, are not a commodity for profit. Our first two children are still very much a part of our lives, 24 years after we first fostered them, and will always be.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great article Phil – I would also struggle if a company was making a profit out of our kids’ situations.


    1. Thanks Spike. I think foster caring is generally a good thing. In a perfect world there’d be no profit (as with adoption) and all resources etc would be ploughed back in to making the system as good as possible, in the interests of the kids.


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