There was once a time when all the children who were placed with foster carers, were done through the Local authority. With the demand being so high and Local Authorities struggling with supply for various reasons. This has allowed independent agencies to come in and help with the shortfall of foster carers.
As a potential foster carer, we always advise foster carers to look into them both. It is always good to ring them and get to know more about fostering from your local authority as well as some well established independent fostering agencies.
A couple of questions to ask are;
- What does their training schedule look like for the year?
- What level of support can a foster carer expect to receive?
- Will the same social worker see the carer through the application process and then become their permanent supervising social worker?
- You should also ask about the continuity of placements – if you have given up your job to become a foster carer you don’t want to be sitting at home waiting for months between placements when there are so many children in need of a home.
LAs generally place the foster child in house first, so if you are a foster carer for an LA you get placement opportunities first before they go out to partnering Agencies. Agencies usually cover a wider area, and partner with more than one LA, so if you’re a foster carer for an agency be prepared to travel further.
Some agencies specialise and take children with challenging behaviour, those with special needs, or those needing long term placements. Consider if this would suit you and your family. Allowances vary but agencies usually offer a larger allowance which they claim back from the LA. The level of support is often higher with an agency than an LA. They have a better ratio of supervising social workers to foster carers so one is usually available to step in, if necessary, in an emergency and offer hands-on support, for example, by collecting a child from school.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions whether you are thinking about applying to become a foster carer or an experienced carer wanting to change service provider don’t be afraid to ask questions. A lot of time and emotions are invested in fostering, it is important to feel comfortable with the people you work with, be given an allowance you can live on, and know there is someone who can competently advise and support you when necessary.