Which Fostering Agency Should I Choose?
Are you in the process of searching for the right fostering agency for you but have no idea where to start? It can certainly be hard to choose between them, and there is an overwhelming amount of information to consider.
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; IFAs were introduced to help meet the increasing demand for fostering. Since the first Independent Foster Agency was opened 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.
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.
What are the differences between Independent Fostering Agencies and Local Authorities?
There are a couple of key differences between Independent Fostering Agencies (IFA’s) and Local Authorities (LA’s). We have shared some below that you might find useful:
Children who are fostered through IFA’s tend to be aged 8 and over; this is because older children are harder to place than small children. They are (often unfairly) perceived to be ‘harder work’ or have more problems. However, due to a shortage of foster carers across the country, we see an increasing number of younger children being fostered through IFA’s.
The levels of support available can vary 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 a fantastic 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.
The final key difference is that when you foster through an IFA, the children placed with you can come from a much wider geographical area. This can mean that you have further to travel for school or family time sessions, but on the flip side you might not have to wait as long for a child to be placed with you.
What do I need to know?
When you meet with a representative from an agency, have lots of questions ready. 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 children you might be able to offer a place to. 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 match.
Your journey as an approved Foster Carer begins once you have a child placed with you. Taking your first child can be quite daunting, so make sure you ask each agency what support they offer in this crucial period. 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 at any stage of your fostering journey.
If you and your family decide to proceed, ask what the assessment process involves and how long it takes. With some services it can take over a year, a good agency usually aims for 3-4 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.
Get in Touch
If you would like to learn more about becoming a Foster Carer then please get in touch for a chat. You can call or WhatsApp Rachael on 07938 575 738 or email email@example.com or submit your details using the form below and we will call you back soon.