Don't we all love it when there's an item on the radio or TV news about something we know something about?
Doesn't happen a lot, so most of the time we're in the hands of the presenter asking an expert to explain what's what.
Yesterday I had Five Live on and up came the subject of fostering.
The male presenter introduced the item by saying "It's reported that more and more foster carers are suffering from 'compassion fatigue'. There are estimates that up to 40,000 foster carers report symptoms. It can lead to children in care being moved from one foster placement to another. One child was moved 70 times in a year"
The female presenter said that foster carers are giving up and leaving.
Then they introduced the experts. A woman from a fostering agency (not Blue Sky), and a woman who had been in care herself. Someone else, I think, another woman, but I couldn't tell from the introduction if she was a foster carer or had previously been one or wasn't even a carer at all.
There were the usuals about how 'fostering is an incredibly difficult job blah blah' and 'surely there's something wrong if a child is moved 70 times in a year blah' I heard the female presenter ask 'surely if foster carers are going to give up fostering, weren't they tested for that before they became foster carers?'
Buried in amongst the pussyfooting around fostering in general was the handle for the item, the new thing of "Compassion Fatigue".
The programme never really nailed what "Compassion Fatigue " is supposed to be. Is it when you run out of kindness, or is it when you have heard so many stories of the terrible things children are subjected to that you can't take any more?
The presenters were distracted by the statistic about one child being moved 70 times in one year. I must admit to shouting at the radio at that point. If true it means the child averaged a new placement home every four or five days, for a whole year. If that is the fact of the matter, that case isn't anything to do with compassion fatigue, it's likely to be a child who has some serious behavioural problems. I bet the totting up included emergency placements, which are legitimate short-term solutions lasting a day or two, nothing to do with anything except logistics. Awful for the child nonetheless, but not to be included in an eye-watering count-up to bolster the shock factor of a statistic about foster carers calling time.
The interview was starting to hop around all over the place. Were the right people coming into fostering? What is the impact on the child of being fostered generally? What help is given to foster carers when there's a problem with the placement?
The conversation drifted around until time was up and everyone thanked everyone and the presenters played a jingle, and introduced the next item.
Sitting in the kitchen, I actually felt a bit abused.
Nothing serious, maybe just miffed really. A few million listeners had picked up the idea that we can't really cope, let children down too often, haven't the hide to stomach the back-stories of our children, and worst of all, run out of kindness.
Most of all, I think, I was disappointed but not surprised that a couple of ordinary young BBC bods, nice enough youngsters I'm quite sure, lacked the hearts and minds to get anywhere close to grasping what our job is like, and that the 'experts' let us down too, awed by their moment in the spotlight they'd struggled to provide the slick compact answers to the presenters slick compact questions which often sounded like they were being read off a script.
Should we care about being under-represented by our public service broadcaster?
Nah. I reckon practically everybody who hears something on the radio about something they know a bit about ends up thinking the programme got their facts wrong.
We've got to get on with fostering.
I haven't got a thick skin about the things that have happened to children in care. I am getting a thick hide about what anyone outside fostering wants to think about fostering.
It's the child in your home who matters.