Fostering for money

Jo is back with another short blog for Capstone. This time she shares her thoughts on ‘fostering for money’.

I hope that title got your attention?

I used it because there are sadly too many people out there who believe foster carers are indeed ‘doing it for the money’.

Why do they think this? Well, quite possibly it’s because there does seem to be a small minority of carers who have revealed themselves to be ‘financially driven’, shall we say, by the opportunity, and as with anything, it tarnishes the good name of everybody else.

Deciding to apply to be a foster carer based on finances reveals a huge character flaw which straight away rules you out as suitable for the role – hopefully not just in my opinion, but in the opinion of your assessing social worker, who will surely figure you out. However, can you really blame these people when agencies out there are all too often using the financial aspect of fostering as the ‘hook’ to get people involved?

When you buy a new car, you start seeing loads of that make and model on the roads wherever you go. Similarly, when you start the application process for fostering, you start hearing all the adverts on the radio advertising the opportunity. What a lot of them have in common is the fact that they use key marketing phrases such as “you’ll be financially rewarded” and “there are generous rates of pay on offer” in order to draw people in. Not only is it immoral, but it’s incorrect.

Yes, you get paid – it’s a vocation for god’s sake. I’m not a martyr, and I won’t sit here and say the money doesn’t help, but if money is your main motivation, then a) you really shouldn’t be taking on the responsibility of a young person’s health and happiness, and b) you are about to be sorely disappointed with your remuneration! I need to say at this point that with our agency, we heard about them through word of mouth. Had they ever produced a radio ad similar to the ones I’ve mentioned, I certainly wouldn’t be choosing to write for them now.

Again, yes, you get paid, but I think people forget that whilst you do indeed get an allowance each week for the child in your care, you’re pretty much obligated to spend it caring for that child! Funny, that!

Admittedly, unless you’re taking your child out every day, night and spoiling them with gifts, treats and new stuff all the time (which is lovely by the way), then not all of that allowance will be needed directly. However, there are things you have to keep in mind that aren’t directly spent on the child at one time but still cost money, such as the fact that your bills are indeed going to rise quite significantly; the water bill is a main one through washing clothes and having baths and showers, and don’t even get me started on WiFi! If you have an extra person in your home, you’re going to see a financial impact. This isn’t news.

The main issue that astounds me though, is that people really don’t take into account the fact that it is highly likely that one of you (if you are in a couple) will need to give up your job, or at least significantly reduce your hours, in order to care for that child! Yes you may receive X amount of funding per week for that child, but if you give up a job of average salary in this country, you’ll be losing twice that amount from your employment.

Some of you at this point will be thinking, well why would you need to give up your job? Let me enlighten you. Please remember that when you foster a child, it is very different to the day-to-day dealings you would have with your own child. Take for example if your child has an issue at school. If it is your birth child, you may send for a grandparent, uncle or friend to pick up the child and take care of them before you then deal with any issues later on when you get in from work. You can’t do that with a foster child. The friend or relative may not be competent in dealing with the situation, nor may they want to, depending on the issue at hand.

It is very unlikely that with a ‘looked after child’ the school will let them go home and be happy for you to deal with the situation later. No, you’ll likely be summoned to a meeting where you’ll be met with senior school staff, concerned looking social workers, staff from ‘support’ agencies you never knew existed, and amongst all of it, one very scared, insecure and confused child – regardless of what they have or haven’t done. Do you think your employer would let you do this twice a week throughout the term if it came to it? Do you think he or she would let you leave the office on a whim because a social worker has decided they want a meeting, or because birth mum has decided she wants to see her child, or because you have to be in court for an indeterminable amount of time for something you’d really rather not disclose to your boss in the first place? Even I’d struggle to be so flexible with my own staff as an employer, given the complexities of the demands presented.

So, if you’re interested in fostering because of the money, I hope this puts you off, because even though the world needs more foster carers, it needs the right people to do it. A good start would be for agencies to re-think the way they present their ads. But that’s a blog for another time.

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