Becoming a foster parent had popped in and out of my mind for a long time. We talked about it often at home. His view was always "Too hard". How can you work out what it's going to be like?
What I've discovered is that fostering is really no harder than just about any other aspect of modern life. But it's a lot more rewarding than almost anything.
What happened to us was this.
A leaflet came through the door from a local college asking if people could take a foreign student. We had a spare bedroom.
The income looked useful, it was something you could easily back out of (the summer students are only here for 6 weeks), and it might turn out to be very interesting.
The money was useful, though it wasn't life-changing. We did back out in the end because it turned out to be VERY interesting.
Foreign students are here to learn English, or get English A levels so they can go to an English University. They all came from well-to-do families, because it's not cheap to educate and pay for accommodation your teenager in England.
We had about a dozen students over a period of about 3 years. Some were great. Most were all over the place.
There was the Finnish boy who wouldn't come out of this room and refused to speak. The college couldn't help.
A Brazilian boy who disappeared for days on end, smoked 40 a day and punched a hole in the bedroom dry wall, we never found out why. We were on our own.
A 19 year-old girl from Europe (I have to be careful of privacy) who got pregnant and couldn't tell her strictly Catholic father, so we had to help her get an abortion. And sort her out afterwards. By ourselves.
Then a Russian girl 18, a very head-turning young woman. Her dad, she said, was on the run from the Mafia but made his money out of a "casino which has rooms above to rent by the hour". He liked to go hunting. With a machine gun. She used to spend all her spare time in bed with her laptop. Sometimes she'd take a bath with her laptop. She complained every day that her parents wouldn't give her enough money, but she always seemed flush. One day a young Russian man visited her. He told us he was in business on the internet, we never really got our heads round what was going on, but I have a sneaking feeling I know. One night she came downstairs and said her younger brother had just died in a house fire, the mother had got drunk and gone to sleep and the boy had set fire to a pair of his father's trousers. Naturally we wondered if she was catastrophising.
So we Googled an international news station, and there it was, the fire and everything she said. We nursed her through endless all-night phone calls, then got her onto the first flight home.
At some point about this time, I said to him; "You know what; fostering is probably no harder than this".
So a few days later I Googled "fostering" in my area and Blue Sky came up top of the list. I phoned them and asked for some info about it. Six months later we told the college we were no longer able to take students. We'd been accepted.
Fostering is no harder than real life, actually. Except in real life you don't have the backup of a big organisation whose responsibility is to support you all the way.
The allowance is about 3 times better, and the emotional rewards are about 10 times better.
That's how we got into it.