Kid: “Phil, where do you keep going?”
Me: “What do you mean? When?”
Kid: “In the morning, you put on a yellow coat, and you go out of the house. Where are you going?”
Me: “I am going to work.”
Kid: “And when you come back to the house, where have you been?”
Me: “I am coming back from work. I go every day from Monday to Friday.”
Me: “I go to work to earn money to pay for the food, and the WiFi, and the electricity. I go to work because I said I would, and I go to work because, on most days, I quite like going.”
Long thoughtful pause.
Kid: “What if you don’t feel like going?”
Me: “Sometimes I don’t feel like going, and if I am ill, I wouldn’t go in, but if I don’t go, I’ll be letting people down. Who will teach the kids if I don’t turn up?”
This kid only stayed with us for a few weeks.
He had been in care all his life and had come to stay with us while his regular carer was undergoing some medical procedures.
Inevitably, he had encountered working people before he lived with us.
He was taught by teachers and Learning Support Assistants, and was cared for by Lunchtime Staff.
Cleaners cleaned up after him.
He’d seen people empty the bins in the street where he lived.
He’d been in buses driven by bus drivers.
He had a Social Worker, in fact he had probably had several, and had inevitably encountered a variety of medical staff for routine or specific medical issues.
However, he’d never lived in a home where adults left to go to work, did a shift, and then returned home.
His Foster Carer was of course working because she was being paid to look after him.
However, she was so integral to his life, more like a grandmother than a highly experienced, trained professional, that he had not made the connection.
He’d never considered that the staff at his school, did more or less what I do.
He’d never watched someone leave the house, go to work, and then return several hours later.
Behind every front door in Britain, there is a unique domestic situation.
I think our Foster Households should reflect this diversity.
Foster Households can be working couples with children, single parents, same sex couples, widows, black, white, rich, poor, religious, atheists, and almost certainly Everton fans.
No one should be discounted, as long as they meet the Assessment Criteria.
And one of the most important criteria must be that a potential carer can meet the needs of the Foster Child as and when they arrive.
If a child needs to go to hospital, you need to be available to take them.
If a child has the opportunity to spend time with their Birth Mum, their Foster Carer needs to be able to make that happen.
If a child’s sleep is disrupted by nightmares or bed wetting, their Foster Carer needs to have the flexibility in their schedule to manage the subsequent emotions and practicalities.
When we started fostering, I was a full time teacher.
My wife worked Part-time for our Council and worked ‘family friendly hours’.
We had two Primary aged children.
Could we manage the needs of a Foster Child?
The answer was yes.
As a teacher I could deal with the 12 weeks that any Foster Child would not be in school.
The flexibility of my wife’s job meant she could take a child to any medical or Foster related appointment.
However, our Social Worker knew we could not care for a preschool child at home all day, every day.
Our Social Worker knew our domestic set-up meant we would not be able to transport a child to school on the other side of the city every morning.
We have had to be flexible to meet the needs of the children who have been placed in our care, but the success of the ‘placements’ has also been due to being ‘matched’ with the right kid.
Matching is crucial to a kid fitting in with a Foster Household.
From what I can work out, Local Authorities and Independent Agencies have a variety of regulations and expectations of their Carers, and whether they have ‘another paid job’.
Unless allowances and remuneration are increased, I think it’s inevitable that Foster Carers will need to have an additional work.
I also think it can be beneficial to the Carers and to the children we look after.
Teaching isn’t easy, but it’s been great for my mental and physical health to leave the home every day and go to work.
Who’d have thought that being in a classroom of Year 9s would be part of my self-care!