Wednesday, January 07, 2015


People from all walks of life are perfectly able to foster, and it's not for anyone to know if they have the right background until they apply. It's a shame, for example, there aren't more teachers and nurses in fostering.

The process is friendly, there are no exams or interviews. A single social worker turns up at your house once a month about eight or ten times, you chat things through over a cuppa, things such as your own experience of childhood, your relationship with your partner. It's more about getting you thinking in the right way about your strengths than putting you to the test.

If fostering isn't right for someone they're let down gently but quickly, nobody wants to make a  big deal.

When I say people from all walks of life, that's probably not true then. I've never met a merchant banker, or a homeless person, obviously.

I've met a former soldier, a taxi driver, a baggage handler, a professional footballer, an  architect, a woman who worked behind the counter at Nat West.

I've met plenty of home-makers, or housewives, or whatever the term is nowadays for people, mainly still women, whose partners are the main bread winner and who cook and clean. They've often had part-time jobs which they didn't enjoy. Fostering often suits them down to the ground.

But it's an obvious fact that some types of work background are an advantage in fostering, and people who have worked in education or health should have a bunch of skills that help.

I worked in a toyshop for a year after leaving school. Children were everywhere. Okay it didn't make me the world's leading educationalist, but I picked up some things that are useful to know.

For example. Every Saturday the big spenders came in, nobody spent more than a tenner Monday to Friday, Christmas apart. Half the big spenders came in at 8.30am. The other half came in about 2.30pm. When I say 'big spenders' I mean men wanting bikes or big Meccano or Scalextric sets. They were alone, the toys were surprise presents. The men who came in at 8.30am on Saturdays asked questions about the toys and were careful with their money. They paid by American Express. There seemed something heavy-hearted about them in their suit jackets and trendy jeans. I enjoyed trying to work out why they were buying big toys. I chatted to them, sometimes it was birthday presents.  One guy was buying 'welcome home' gifts for a child coming home from boarding school (I figured to apologise). I often got the vibe that the expensive toys were to make up for something.

The 2.30pm Saturday dads,T shirt and work jeans, seemed straight from the pub or the bookie. Also heavy-hearted, they paid cash and chose the most expensive bike. For many of them the  toys seemed like peace offerings. Apologies.

Being a good dad is a mystery to many men.

I learned quite a few insights into childhood in the toy shop. The main thing I learned was how to work out what might be going on behind what was going on.

Teachers, working daily with different youngsters will have picked up lots of insights. Nurses are the number one caring profession. Both these jobs are challenging. The physical, mental and emotional workload is huge and in my view, it's poorly paid.

Can someone do both? The answer is obviously yes they can. For a teacher the school holidays will more or less match, whatever the age of the child. There are more and more teachers going part time, teaching two or three days per week.

Part time nursing seems to be a coming thing, with a range of nursing opportunities being advertised around 15 hours per week; staff nurses, community nurses, even specialist roles such as occupational nurses.

I meet a nurse who walks her dog up at the meadow I use, she's flat to the boards, is looking to go part-time to get her life back, but will have to make ends meet. She's giving fostering some thought.

Fostering is hard, make no bones. But it does offer an opportunity to some people to actually improve the quality of their life. It can improve the work/life balance.

If teaching or nursing is what someone does, maybe the grind is beginning to get in the way.  Not just in the way of their own lifestyle and happiness but the way they carry out their work. Then they should look at their options, and fostering may be one of the best options.

I doubt a few teachers and nurses reducing their workload will cause Education or Health too many problems, and in any case, fostering has a bigger need for good people at the moment than any other profession.

There's even a real possibility they'll be better teachers and nurses for it.


  1. I am a district nurse and I have also been fostering for the past 8 years while i agree that many of the skills are transferable it does mean that you are doing two jobs in two areas that are very stressful to work in, both underfunded, understaffed and often poorly managed. There is a high rate of "burnout" in nursing and also with in foster care combining both may not be for everyone.Also your comment about a few teachers or nursing leaving the profession would hardly cause a problem I think is very short sighted in the current climate where nurses in a and e are working 18 hour shifts trying to manage a crisis with in the nhs.

  2. Thanks for your comments, and keep up the great work. I'm not sure your apparent argument that nursing is more important than fostering is true. If an individual nurse is interested in fostering then he or she is entitled to their options and they shouldn't be made to feel that cutting back their hours to do another equally crucial caring job is going to scupper the NHS, for goodness sake.

  3. I'm a children's nurse by background now working part-time as a health visitor. I foster with my husband and daughter. my husband gave up working as a builder to be the main foster carer. we simply would not be able to survive financially if I stopped work to foster which is what I would have liked to do...but we are fostering and that's the main thing..we love it, with all the challenges it brings we wouldn't have it any other way.

    1. Thank you for finding a moment to post your comments, which I find inspirational. People like you make the world go round. Love and best wishes and deep respect to all your wonderful family.

  4. I M not saying that nursing is more important than fostering just that robbing peter to pay paul is not the way forward, you suggested that nursing would not miss a few nurses, i can say that in my team when any nurse leaves they are missed and more of a crisis ensues and recruitment of skilled nurses is at an all time low, it takes three years plus to train a nurse to a basic standard but years to gain experience that the nhs can not afford to loose.

  5. Hi Tom, thanks for your interesting and passionate comments (I assume it's yourself who posted earlier as Anon). I'm sure that when nurses leave your team it causes you problems, but can you tell me what they left to do? Only, my point is that if they can't be pursuaded to stay, they should consider fostering, and I can't see why anyone would have a problem with that?