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 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.
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.