From time to time I meet with people who are thinking about fostering.
Blue Sky arranges get togethers for couples and singles who are prowling around fostering, it's a big step, and a good one if it's the right one for you.
They sometimes invite some of their carers to mingle with the prospectives, they tell us to tell it like it is.
When I started fostering I got something wrong about the people who foster.
For some reason I expected foster parents to be drawn from a small and spectacular section of society. People of comfortable means who had time and wealth to spare in order to cascade their good fortune down to those who needed help.
I remember my first meeting with other prospective foster carers and how normal everyone was. There were about thirty of us.
A woman whose husband drove a minicab, she'd been forced to give up work because of her hip.
An ex-teacher who found the modern demands too much and her partner, an ex-footballer.
A woman who had never worked, she called herself a housewife, and was nuts about doing something special with what she knew, which was running a house.
A young couple. A gay couple. A single divorcee.
A soldier who'd been in the army I guess since he left school and looked about 35.
We all had one thing in common namely we weren't sure if we could do it.
I never found out exactly how many of the thirty grasped the nettle, I know quite a few did because I bumped into them again at support meetings. They had changed from being outsiders looking in to members of a proud community.
Not that foster carers go round patting each other on the back, there's work to be done. We help each other as much as any expert can. Maybe more. Only if you actually foster do you really know what fostering is all about.
We swap phone numbers and end up with a book of new friends.
It's no exaggeration to say that most of by best friends now are fellow carers and they are much, much more than the type of friend people make with their work colleagues, mainly because fostering is different from any other type of work. It's your whole life, taking place in your home. It's full-on emotion. It's ups and downs, you don't do fostering you live fostering.
Monday mornings are a regular time for phone calls; we've got through the weekend, done the school run. The house is quiet if in dire need of a hoovering.
But before the housework comes a cup of tea and a catch-up.
How are the children doing? What's the latest on their parents?
How are you doing? Are you going to have a quick nap after the hoovering?
What I'm saying is something I've said before to people who are thinking about fostering;
If you have time to think about it you have time to make the phone call.
There's a child out there who needs you to make that call.