How to Find the Foster Agency That’s Right For You
Choosing a foster agency to work with and accompany you on your fostering journey is an important and often tough decision to make. With over 700 independent fostering agencies, local authorities and trusts providing fostering services within the UK, answering the question as to which foster agency is right for me, is not always easy.
You need to ensure you choose the right agency to fit your needs. Different agencies offer different pay, conditions, social worker support and quality of training. You can also only be approved by one agency at any one time. So, if you end up making the wrong choice, you will need to retrain as a foster parent in order to sign up with a new agency.
Before applying, it helps to know more about the different ways you can foster a child in the UK. That way, you can see exactly which one is right for you.
How to foster a child?
There are two different routes you can go down in order to become a foster carer. One is to go through a local authority and the other is to use an independent fostering agency. Below you’ll discover more about each option and what it involves.
Local authority services usually work alongside, or as part of the authority’s social work department, selecting and training their own foster carers. Due to their high volume caseloads, local authorities are usually unable to offer the same level of support as a dedicated agency. So for example, it may be harder to reach a local authority social worker over the phone as they are often swamped with cases. Local authorities also tend to pay their carers less than dedicated agencies.
Independent fostering agencies
Independent agencies don’t have their own database of children. Instead they provide placement opportunities for children that local authorities are unable to place. Agencies use their own pool of foster carers who they have personally trained and supported.
As the local authority has experienced difficulty placing the child, he or she may well have special needs or complex behavioural issues. This isn’t always the case however and there are many reasons why a child may have been harder to place.
As agency social workers are likely to have fewer carers to support, they are typically able to offer more thorough, individual support for each one. In addition, if the child does have complex needs, this is usually reflected by a higher pay rate from the agency.
Another advantage of using an agency is that some specialise in various types of fostering. These can include:
- Emergency foster care
- Short term care
- Long term care
- Respite care
- Placements involving babies, siblings or children with disabilities.
You can choose to specialise in a specific type of fostering with an agency if you prefer; something the local authorities don’t tend to offer. However, keep in mind that if you do go down the specialist fostering route, you could end up waiting longer than you would like for a placement. This is why it is essential that you select an agency with a solid reputation and one that has excellent ties to the relevant local authorities.
Finding the best agency
If you want to find the best agency to fit your needs, you’ll need to do as much research as you can. It is also a good idea to look into fostering a child tips. The internet tends to be the best place to start.
Once you begin making contact with local agencies, don’t just stop at one. Even if you are initially really impressed with how they come across, you should always contact at least three different agencies.
The next step is to arrange a visit with the agencies you feel represent the best option moving forward. This meeting is your opportunity to ask the important questions that can help you make a decision. It’s also a good idea to talk to foster carers who are already working with the agency to get a first-hand opinion on what it is like to work for the agency.
Just some important questions you might want to ask include:
- How big is the agency?
- Do they have local offices?
- What is the agency staff to carer ratio?
- Do they have strong ties with local authorities?
- What kind of support is provided?
- How long is their assessment process and what is involved?
- What kind of specialist training is provided?
- Can you take breaks or holidays from fostering?
Only after you have got the answers to these questions should you decide which agency is right for you. As mentioned earlier, you can only sign up with one agency at a time so you need to be 100% sure you’re making the right choice. Take time to think it over after meeting with each agency.
Here at Fostering Solutions, we see ourselves not only as a top UK foster agency, but the best UK foster agency. As such, we offer an exceptional level of support to all of our carers.