Wednesday, April 08, 2015


I'm getting fed up with cold calls. No surprise there.

Phone rings, you pick up. After a couple of second's silence a voice comes in "Am I speaking to Mrs....?"

I used to reply"Who is this?"

They have a stock set of replies which they read from a script. You say X and they say Y. I try to make it clear, without saying so, that I'm not stupid or bored or vulnerable in any way, but they are hard to shake off, and when you do manage to put the phone down, there's a sense of disappointment with the episode.

I think I had my first cold call on my mobile yesterday. I didn't pick up (driving) but who else would call from a number I don't know and not leave a message?

We've had a cowboy firm who'd got details of a minor car prang we'd had a while back (only me in the car). It was the other party's fault and they paid for the bodywork, but these cowboys wanted to make me pretend I'd been injured. 

Another lot wanted us to invest in wine, would you believe. "£5,000 is a good amount to start with". I'll bet. They actually made it clear we'd never see the wine we had bought, they would keep it for us in a cellar with a special climate.

Mostly it's some poor chuck in the sub-continent presumably getting paid precious little for a day spent constantly asking "Am I speaking to Mrs....?"

Mind, often they have teeth, I've had a mouthful more than once when I've said "Go away."

I've heard about screening services, but I've also heard they aren't much good.

I could switch my phone off, or turn the answerphone on.

But here's my point; in fostering you have to be reachable. It could be your child, the school. It could be Blue Sky;

"Would you consider taking a child who...."

Anyway, as a result of thinking about it, when I get the dreaded "Am I speaking to Mrs...?" I now interrupt and say "I'm sorry would you please get off the line, I'm expecting an important call."

It doesn't help with the fact that I may be standing in the hall dripping wet with a towel around me. But I don't get led the merry dance.

Fact is in fostering you can't ignore a ringing telephone. Every placement starts with a phone call. Blue Sky have a team of fantastic people whose job is to field requests from local authorities for a fostering family for a child who is coming into care. The experts have to make a judgement about the type of home and carers who would be a good match for the child, based on the information they have about us and the child. 

If it's you, you get the magic call. There's usually a sense of urgency about it. In my experience it's often a same day/next day thing, which is why you always should have a made up room and a bag of pasta and a jar of Dolmio in the larder (always a winner).
 I did get a call once asking if we could take 3 children but it might be a while before they came into care as the case had a number of conflicting interests. The family's GP had gone to Social Services with concerns. The problem at the heart of the case was that the parents appeared to be OVERLY CARING. Yep, they apparently wrapped the children in cotton wool to such a degree they were maybe suffering neglect. It all turned on the extent of social strangulation, the effect on the children, the motives of the parents (they may have been seeking extra benefits for having 'vulnerable' children), and the mental health of the parents. So we were on standby for 3 weeks, then it was decided to leave the children with the parents, under supervision.

Our policy is always to say "Yes", although there's no problem if you were to say "No" on the basis that, for example, the profile of the child might not be a fit with another child you happen to be looking after. That's your call and Blue Sky respect your judgement about your looked-after children's welfare.

One of the most exciting times in fostering is the hour or two between getting a phone call that says "They have agreed to the child being placed with you" and the social worker's car pulling up outside your house and a little one gets out. Their heads are always down. 

The social worker tries to make things bright and breezy, but there's no getting away from the enormity of what the child is going through.

Next morning the phone rings again, it's Blue Sky; "How are things...?"

The cold callers can't get to you for the next hour or so, there's always so much to share.

So my new tactic of "I'm sorry could you get off the line, I'm expecting an important call" is effective.

And it's the truth.


  1. Hi, no one likes cold calls; I've registered all our numbers on PTS. You can register land-line and mobiles. In my case cold calls dropped after few months considerably (80% less). Regards

  2. Thanks Sobek, forgive my ignorance, what's PTS?

  3. Oops, sorry, predictive text error. it's Telephone Preference Service (TPS)

  4. Thanks. Just got a bit cranky that PMS which used to be PMT was nowmaybe PTS and I'd missed it.

  5. First, love your blog. We are new local authority foster carers with our first placement. A lot of what I have read here helps me and resonates with what we are seeing.

    Second, ages ago I bought a call blocker for about 40 quid. You can teach it numbers (or groups of numbers) to block and it just picks up the call and drops the line whenever they call, you don't even hear the phone ring. We also set it to block withheld numbers. It's great and has reduced nuisance calls to almost zero. You need calling line identity which BT call caller display, but you've got that right?

  6. Thanks for getting in touch. I hope the placement is working for everyone. You never forget your first placement, we talk about ours a lot.
    I'm definitely going to try the advice about the phone calls. Yes the caller identity appears on a screen on the handset so I guess we're set up for it. I presume you buy the call blocker on the internet? And does the caller, supposing they are genuine, hear that their call has been blocked so they would know to try us on their mobile, because some local authority switchboards appear as 'number witheld', which I guess would be blocked. Sorry to bother you with all these questions, but you and Sobek have got me thinking.

  7. Me again. Yes we're certainly going to remember our first placement, for all sorts of reasons!

    Yes if the number appears on your phone you have calling line identity already. (So you can easily screen your calls yourself, to be honest). The machine we have is called a CPR Call Blocker. We set it to reject callers who withhold their number. To them it is like you pick up the phone and immediately put it down again. Yes we have people call our mobiles - "did you know there's something wrong with your home line" "Do you withhold your number?" "Yes!" I can live with that. And whenever we get a nuisance call that comes through, I program their number in (takes seconds)....and we never hear from them again!


  8. Brilliant, thanks for the advice. I'm definitely going to give it a try. It's the calls at 7.30 in the evening that are really annoying, because you get suckered into thinking it's family or friends. Hope you're not having too many ups and downs with first placement, it's a huge learning curve as I remember, and second and third are that much easier as a result.