Which Independent Fostering Agency Should I Choose?
Private or Independent Fostering Agency V Local Authority
Are you in the process of searching for the best independent fostering agency for you; but have no idea where to start looking? There are over seven hundred Independent Fostering Agencies, Local Authorities and Trusts providing fostering and adoption services across the UK. So choosing the right agency for you can sometimes be a bit of a challenge.
What is an Independent Fostering Agency?
Independent Fostering Agencies (IFA’s) are independent services that assess, recruit, train and support families to become foster Carers. Historically, the provision of foster services was the responsibility of the Local Authority Social Services but then IFA’s were introduced to help meet the increasing demand for fostering. Since the first Independent Foster Agency was introduced in the 1960’s, independent foster care has grown significantly.
Independent foster agencies offer high levels of support and training to make the fostering journey as successful and enjoyable as possible. But which agency do you choose? Foster Carers come from all walks of life and have different aspirations. Therefore it is important to choose the right agency to meet your needs. There are many independent agencies to choose from and you can only be assessed and approved by one agency at a time. Most agencies do prefer to work with families within a 50 mile radius so that they can provide you with the right support, so it is usually best to choose a local agency. Proximity of support is important.
What are the differences between Independent Fostering Agencies and Local Authorities?
Fostering agencies are not all the same. Agencies differ in size, resource, pay, conditions and the training and support offered. Once you have selected an agency to talk to, they will set up an initial meeting with you. The person who attends that meeting can often make your final decision about that agency. We do advise that you talk to a small number of different agencies, maybe 3 at most, to avoid confusion.
There are a couple of key differences between Independent Fostering Agencies (IFA’s) and Local Authorities (LA’s). We’ve shared some below that you might find useful:
- The age of the children needing fostering through private agencies is generally higher than those with local authorities. This is because older children are usually more difficult for local authorities to place.
- The levels of support available vary wildly between local authorities and private fostering agencies; with local authorities typically not being able to offer the same level of support. Here at Lorimer, we have an unrivalled support and training package, designed with our foster parents in mind.
- The allowance that Foster Carers will receive varies between local authorities and even different agencies, but the fees that agencies offer are usually higher than those at local authorities.
What do I need to know?
It is at this meeting you can ask all your questions. Does the agency welcome, guide and support you in a way appropriate to your personal circumstances? Ask for specific details that matter to you, and don’t be afraid of asking endless questions!
Ask about agency size, organisation, support and training. Think about the types of placements you would be interested in. Do your research! Some agencies specialise in providing placements for babies, teenagers, young people with disabilities etc., so you need to check this before you apply. Remember, however, the more restrictive you are in the gender and age of the young people you are prepared to care for, the longer you may have to wait for a suitable placement.
Your journey as an approved Foster Carer begins once you have your first placement. Taking your first placement can be quite daunting, so make sure you ask each agency what support they offer. This is THE most important factor you should consider when choosing the best fostering agency for you; as you do not want to feel alone in any stage of this journey.
If you and your family decide to proceed, ask what the assessment process involves and in particular, how long it takes. With some services it can take over a year, a good agency usually aims for 6 months.
Fostering really is an exciting, rewarding career. With the right agency, becoming a Foster Carer will make a significant difference to the life of a young person; and will change your own life, too.
Fostering for Lorimer
We’ve been at the heart of fostering for many years, helping and supporting hundreds of young people transform their lives. We know that this would not have been possible without our fantastic Foster Carers!
As an Independent Fostering Agency we take your role as a Foster Carer very seriously and treat you as if you were part of our professional team. Your fostering journey is one that we can walk through together. In return for looking after vulnerable young people as part of our professional team, you’ll receive one of the most generous financial and support packages available to Foster Carers.
If you would like to speak to us about becoming part of our team, as a Foster Carer, then please either submit your details by heading to our contact page or submit them using the form below. One of our friendly team members will be in touch soon!