My wife and I went on a night out.
If you’ve got a good support network you can occasionally do that sort of thing.
We went to see a comedian.
He was pretty funny, but towards the end of his set, he’d clearly run out of material and begun to make fun of the crowd.
He’d picked on a couple of people and done a good job in making them looking silly in front of the 200 strong crowd.
Inevitably, he picked on me.
‘Alright mate, what’s your name and what do you do?’
There’s a temptation to try and be smart when you’re in this situation, but then you’d only look more stupid and you haven’t got a microphone anyway.
It’s best just to suffer being the butt of the joke and smile graciously.
‘I’m called Phil and I’m a Foster Carer.’
The comedian rolled his eyes and looked around the room.
He paused, to build the tension.
‘Typical, just typical. I’m here to make people laugh. People have paid good money to hear some jokes and what happens?…What happens? I pick on a Foster Carer. A Foster Carer. How can I make fun of you? You’re bullet proof. Thanks for all you do.’
I got a round of applause.
I’m a massive show off as you’ll gather from these blogs, and I generally love attention.
Foster Carers, in our experience, are generally highly regarded by society as a whole.
We’re not quite Saints, but if anyone has an insight into what we do, they generally admire us.
We do something that is probably difficult and society benefits.
It’s different for Social Workers.
They appear to be ‘damned’ whatever they do.
They’re either accused of interfering too much and too soon, or not getting involved quickly enough.
If you foster, you’ll meet lots of Social Workers.
You’ll have one, and any child you foster will have one.
As in all professions, they’ll have time off on holiday, time off sick and sometimes they’ll leave for pastures new.
They’ll be managing a case load.
A case load means lots of kids, lots of Foster Carers, lots of paperwork and lots of deadlines.
They’ll have gone through pretty rigorous training, and they’ll be supervised by Senior Social Workers.
They’ll also be managing their own relationships, kids, and all the usual domestic stuff that everyone does.
Sometimes their cars break down and their phone screens smash.
Some are brilliant.
And some are not brilliant.
In our experience, most are good enough most of the time.
If you can, invest in your relationship with the Social Workers.
It’ll be easier for you, easier for them and easier for the kids.
Give them tea and biscuits.
One of our favourite Social Workers was Elaine, although Gerry is a close second.
Elaine spoke in a way I understood.
She didn’t use too much jargon.
She explained things clearly and coherently.
She answered our emails and messages as quickly as she could.
She was patient with me when I didn’t understand what was going on.
Without patronising us, Elaine helped us be better Foster Carers.
She advised us on daily records, training, safeguarding and all sorts of childcare tips.
She recognised that we knew the kids better than she did.
However, she helped us recognise that we are looking after the kids on behalf of the State.
Social Workers, Solicitors, Panels populated by Independent Members, Judges and possibly all sorts of other people would ultimately have the final say about what happens to the kids.
All these people are working within regulations, standards and laws.
No big decision is made by one single person.
The Foster Carer is an important part of the system, but you have to understand that you are just part of the system.
Gerry must also get a nod.
He was one of our Foster Kid’s Social Workers.
He’d developed a pretty good relationship with the kid which was no mean feat.
Gerry and I were chatting in the posh lounge about progress and care plans.
It’s always tricky to chat about a kid when they’re in the house, and they’ve worked out that they’re the focus of the discussion.
The lounge door flew open, and a kid appeared, brandishing a potato masher in a threatening manner.
‘What are you saying about me?’
Gerry looked at me, and I looked at him.
According to the chain of command, Gerry was in charge, but Gerry knew I was far more likely to be able to deescalate the situation than he could.
Gerry took control, but gave me authority.
‘It’s not a secret. Would you like Phil to explain? He will probably do a better job than me.’
Within a few minutes, the utensil was back in the kitchen and the kid was satisfied with our answers.
Gerry and I had worked together well.
Gerry respected me and I respected him.
That’s when fostering works best.