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My job in Belgium: How much does a foster care counsellor earn?

22:49 20/07/2019
In our ongoing series on different jobs, we ask Elien Wouters, 30, from Heist-op-den-Berg about her job as a foster care counsellor

What is your job?

From the moment a match is found between a child and a foster family, I guide the foster child, the foster family and the family of origin. My job is very varied: I organise individual meetings, I arrange meetings between foster families and the biological parents, I intervene in case of problems and refer to other professionals for assistance, I keep the judge of the juvenile court and the consultant informed about the case, and I follow the progress of the foster child in school. My task only ends when a judge says that the child can no longer live with a foster family or when he/she has returned home.

Do you like your job?

Yes, I like it a lot. I can build a relationship with the families and children I supervise, and I can work with them on certain objectives. The results always give me satisfaction. I find this work more interesting than my previous job as a crisis counsellor in special youth care services, where I mainly had administrative tasks.

What do you think of your income?

I earn €2,105 gross (€1,621 net including mileage allowance and parking costs). I would like to earn some more, because I have two children at home and a new house that I have to pay off. In addition, I get a fairly low wage in comparison to others with a similar diploma (bachelor of orthopedagogy). In the social sector, the government pays less than private companies. Our flexibility and the many overtime hours that we work are not really rewarded. However, the combination of work and private life is a lot easier.

How many hours a week do you work per week?

A full-time contract is a 40-hour week, but I only work four fifths because I am taking my parental leave. Overtime occurs regularly but these hours can be recovered within the same year.

Do you save?

Currently, I put aside about €100 per month on average. I also think pension savings are important.

What is your biggest expense?

Paying off the loans for our land and our house is a priority. That will not change because for the next 17 years we will have to pay back the money we owe to the bank and for another five years we have to repay our parents. Since we had children, the cost of daily life has also increased.

What can you definitely not spend money on?

An expensive phone, for example. I think it's a shame to spend money on something that I'm sure will break in a couple of years. In addition, expensive clothes mean nothing to me. I'd rather buy a few T-shirts than just one very expensive one.

What do you gladly spend money on?

Going on holiday. That does not happen so often because we have to combine that with my husband's holiday period as a builder, and because two small children do not always make going on holiday very easy. If we find the time for it, we prefer to go on a skiing holiday or on an outdoors walking holiday. Now that I am a mother, I notice that I spend money more easily on my children than on myself. I will buy clothes or toys for them faster than I will buy myself a new handbag.

What would you do it you won the lottery?

I would have our house completely repainted, the garden revamped and buy a new car. If I could really do something crazy, I would buy a house in Austria, Scotland or Scandinavia and open a B&B. However, for that to happen I would actually have to start playing the lotto.

Written by Noreen Donovan