If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, whether on your own or as part of a couple, it can be tricky to know how and where to get started. Technically as a foster carer you will be self-employed, but as you will work with an independent agency or your local authority it’s important that you take the time to find an agency that you feel happy and comfortable with, and offers you the support you need.
In addition to your local authority, there are hundreds of independent fostering agencies across the UK, including NFA. But how do you begin to find the one that is the perfect fit for you?
Starting Your Foster Agency Search
When you begin searching for a foster care agency, it’s sensible to start your search in your immediate local area, whether for an agency that is based near you or has a regional branch. This is because you’re likely to need to the support of staff that are located within a reasonable travelling distance.
Some agencies have particular specialisms – they might mostly arrange emergency foster care, short term care, long term care or respite care, or perhaps place babies or siblings. With this in mind, if there’s a particular area of fostering you are most interested in this should naturally help to narrow your search.
Most foster care agencies, and local authority foster care departments will have an online presence, so you may find that it’s fastest to begin your search by entering ‘foster care agency near me’ into your favourite online search engine.
Understanding the Types of Foster Agencies
In addition to local authority fostering services, you have the option to work with independent foster agencies. But what are the differences?
Local authority services tend to work alongside or as part of the authority’s social work department and select and train their own foster carers; on the other hand, independent agencies like NFA provide placement opportunities for children that local authorities are unable to place. This is done by employing their own pool of foster carers who they are responsible for recruiting, training and supporting themselves.
Why Choose to Work with an Independent Foster Agency?
Independent fostering agencies tend to have their own focus and ethos, so with a bit of research, you are sure to seek out an agency that matches your beliefs and goals. Because independent fostering agencies are dedicated to working with you and for the benefit of the children they place, they have strong support networks in place, and the financial rewards are good too.
Questions to Ask Prospective Fostering Agencies
Once you have a shortlist of foster care agencies that appeal to you, you should contact them and arrange a visit for an informal chat to help you decide which agency you feel best matched with.
Before making a final decision, you may also want to ask to chat to foster carers who are already working with the agency. You’ll likely have questions about your own personal situation and how that might fit with their support structure but you might want to be armed with a few more general questions too. We’ve listed a few questions below as a starting point:
- How big is your agency?
- How much of a presence do you have in my local area?
- How many members of staff do you have compared to the number of carers?
- How does your placement process work?
- What kind of specialist training do you offer?
- Can we take breaks or holidays from fostering?
- What does your fostering allowance cover and how is it paid?
Be prepared to talk rather candidly about your reasons for applying for fostering and any previous experience you have of looking after children. It’s important both you and the agency feel like you’re a good fit before you progress onto training as should you decide to transfer agencies later, on you’ll be required to go through their own training programme.
We hope that this post has given you a better idea of the process you can use to choose a foster care agency that is right for you. If you have any questions that aren’t covered above or would like to book an informal chat with NFA to ask us any of the questions above, or some of your own, you can find details of how to get in touch on our contact us page.