What it’s like to work for an independent fostering agency

Friday 20 November 2020

Jodie is a foster carer and Sam is a supervising social worker. Their experiences of working for an independent foster agency show how these roles collaborate to provide positive outcomes for foster children.

Sam, the supervising social worker

“My job is hugely varied,” said Sam, who works for National Fostering Agency North, part of our National Fostering Group – we’re an independent fostering agency with local offices across the country.

“Some days, I wear a suit to work, other days I’m in mud-covered jeans. The variety is mind-boggling and that’s one of the things I love about this job. I’m just as happy standing in a field, trying to get children to walk across a slippery log as I am attending top level meetings and writing strategy papers.”

Sam is based in North Yorkshire and covers the whole of the Yorkshire region. Her role is to support foster carers day to day. Her case load can vary widely depending on how many children the foster carers in her region have and what their needs are.

She has worked with vulnerable children and young people for about 20 years, in a variety of different roles, and did a lot of research before deciding to join NFA North.

“I was drawn to their ethos and values – the fact that children are absolutely at the heart of everything they do – and the way they recruit and retain staff,” she explained.

No two days are the same

While Sam said there isn’t such thing as a “typical day” at an independent fostering agency, there are routine tasks that happen regularly.

“My week revolves around supporting and speaking to foster carers. I might go out and do monthly supervisions, meet children, attend meetings and children’s reviews, and deal with anything else that comes up, from enquiries to crises. There is lots of flexibility within this role.

“Sometimes I find myself having to have challenging conversations. At other times I might sit and cry with a foster carer because fostering can be hard, a lot can happen. I celebrate with them too. In my job, I meet carers from all kind of backgrounds and walks of life. I never stop learning.”

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Watching foster carers develop in their role

“Often, I’m part of the child’s whole fostering journey,” said Sam. “I might be part of the matching process, where we match the child to a foster carer, and initial meetings where we discuss how to meet the child’s needs.

“As the time goes on, I see the children grow and thrive and develop. Sometimes, they might go to college or university or on to living independently.

“It’s also really rewarding to watch the foster carers develop. I see them expand their skills and knowledge and become increasingly confident. And, the more skilled and confident a foster carer is, the more they can help the children they care for. As I watch them bloom, I know the children they foster will thrive in their care.

Jodie, the foster carer

Jodie is a foster carer with National Fostering Agency East, another independent fostering agency within National Fostering Group. She joined us at the age of 21 after a recommendation from a friend’s mother. That was 17 years ago.

She and her husband Phil undertake different types of foster care placement. They have a foster daughter with complex disabilities and another foster child who is 11 months-old on a bridging to adoption placement. They also have two birth children who live at home and two more who are grown up. When possible, they take on parent & child placements.

Essential support from their foster agency

“Foster caring is very challenging, particularly the sort that we,” she said. “We couldn’t do what we do without the support of our foster agency. They are there for us in every meeting and respond to any concerns. If people aren’t listening or doing what we need them to do, our supervising social worker backs us up completely; she’s just amazing.”

Jodie and husband, Phil speak to their supervising social worker several times a week as well as receiving monthly visits.

“The nature of the fostering we do means we tend to need a lot of support. She gives us really helpful advice, comes to every meeting and ensures that everything is done properly and that we’re protected as foster carers.

“If we’re going through challenging times, sometimes she leaves her phone on so we don’t have to explain everything to someone we don’t know from the out-of-hours service. We really appreciate all the support we get.”

Jodie feels her fostering agency goes the extra mile to support them and this was illustrated in April this year when the family went down with Covid-19.

“Our supervising social worker and the manager of the agency did our shopping and brought it to our door. They were at the end of the phone if we needed anything throughout the two-month period that we were ill. I don’t know how Phil would have managed without their support. It was amazing.”

Training “makes a real difference”

Jodie highly rates the training offered by National Fostering Group and takes full advantage of it so she feels confident in her skills and well-informed about best practice.

“We have to do a minimum of three courses a year, but we can do as many as want to,” she said.

“Our foster agency tries to adapt the training to the placements we have. I’ve recently done training on autism and children with disabilities course and the agency paid for us to do a three-day course in London to support our parent & child fostering. It makes a real difference to our day-to-day experience.”

The rewards of working for an independent fostering agency

Both Jodie and Sam really value working for an independent fostering agency. For Sam, it’s about National Fostering Group’s focus on quality of care, starting with the expertise she can bring to her role supporting foster carers.

“Very genuinely, the children are absolutely at the centre of everything we do and that is just fantastic,” she said.

“I wanted to train as a supervising social worker while I was working as a support worker. The agency’s workforce development programme sponsored me to do a degree in social work and supported me through my assessed year in practice. Once I’d completed my degree, I moved into the role of supervising social worker. That was two years ago and I love what I do.”

For Jodie, working for an independent fostering agency is about the support she gets to do her very best.

“I have and always would recommend the National Fostering Group. They have been amazing for us and we’ve never thought about moving away from them,” she said.

“Fostering has given me my everything – I live and breathe it! It’s a lifestyle not a job. It can be exhausting at times, particularly the parent and child fostering, but it’s given me a lot of strength and confidence over the years.

“I was 17 when I had my first birth child and a lot of mums who come to us on placement are a similar age. I can really relate to them and when they leave, even if the placement has not been successful, I like to think I’ve given them something important to take with them.

“Our long-term foster daughter has been very poorly at times and that’s been very challenging. I’ve spent weeks and weeks in hospital with her and my birth children have never moaned about that. Fostering has given them such a lot of empathy. Our foster daughter can’t talk but when she smiles or laughs it’s amazing and it’s due to the love and support we give her.”

Have you been inspired by Jodie and Sam?

If you’d like to find out more about fostering children with an independent fostering agency that supports you all the way, get in touch.