Once upon a time, all children coming in to the care system were placed within the Local Authority (LA) system. However, it became apparent that LA’s simply couldn’t cope with the demand. To give some idea, 90 children are taken in to care each day in the UK, with over 70,000 in care at any one point.
In order to ensure demand was more appropriately met, independent fostering agencies such as the FCA, were started. Nonetheless, the LA is still legally responsible for looked after children, their outcomes and safeguarding. Therefore, the connection between LA’s and independent fostering agencies needs to be strong.
Foster carers themselves, choose whether to foster through the LA or through an independent fostering agency. This means that you need to understand the pros and cons of each option, and make the right choice for you.
There are four main reasons why you should choose to foster with an independent fostering agency over registering with the LA:
1.Level of Support and Training
There is no escaping the fact that being a foster carer is a skilled role requiring high levels of support and training. You need training in order to be adequately equipped to meet the care needs of a vulnerable child, often presenting with difficult situations or behaviors. You need support so that you are able to offer the highest level of care for the full duration of a placement.
Independent fostering agencies do vary according to the training and support provided. However, if you look carefully, some (such as the FCA) outstrip the LA in terms of the support and training on offer.
Therefore, when considering an agency, do take the time to investigate the training and support on offer.
The LA is restricted by budgetary constraints. Therefore, foster carers through LA’s usually only receive the minimum foster allowances.
Independent fostering agencies are in the financial position to offer their foster carers an improved allowance amount. Rates are usually notably higher than through the LA. Amounts paid do vary according to other factors, such as the age of the child, number of children, and any health needs, but overall the rates are higher.
3.Age of the Children
LA’s have a tendency to place children within their own network first. Therefore, the children looking to be placed by independent fostering agencies are, generally, those which are harder to place, often simply because of their age.
Given the support available, independent agency foster carers should be better equipped to say ‘yes’ to these placements, providing care for older children and teens.
Many foster carers enter the profession because they want to make a difference to the lives of children in care. We recognize that this requires a different approach to standard parenting or care giving. This is why, since 2002, we have enabled our foster carers to work within the framework called Team Parenting®, which provides a therapeutic approach.
This ensures that foster carers really are making a positive difference in the lives of the children in their care, and not simply providing a roof over their head.
Do also bear in mind, that LA’s are often covering a very wide area. Foster carers are required to undertake a number of meetings in different places during a foster placement. If you would like a smaller region to work within, then an independent agency may be more suitable.
Fostering through the LA and an independent fostering agency can be immensely rewarding. However, it can also be difficult. It’s in supporting foster carers through the difficulties, to provide outstanding care, which is where independent fostering agencies really differ. Before deciding who to sign up with, do your research and consider the differences.