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Foster agency or local authority?

Independent fostering agencies and local authorities both provide safe homes where children and young people can thrive. If you are a prospective foster carer and weighing up which is the best option for you, here is some background information and a checklist of things to consider.

Foster agencies and local authorities have shared aims

Both foster agencies and local authorities are dedicated to finding stable, loving homes for vulnerable children. And whichever route you choose, the desire to make a difference to the lives of foster children is the most important criteria.

Ultimately, whether you sign up with your local authority or a foster agency, fostering offers an incredibly rewarding and challenging way to give something back by caring for vulnerable children. In fact, fostering is becoming a popular alternative to the 9 to 5 for people like you who are looking for more meaningful employment.

The relationship between a foster agency and a local authority

Local authorities are legally responsible for safeguarding all looked after children, including foster children. In the past, before the creation of independent fostering agencies, every child who came into care was placed by the local authority into its own approved bank of foster carers.

Now, foster agencies work alongside local authorities to match a foster child’s needs to the right foster carer. It is a close and supportive relationship, with both fostering agencies and local authorities working to achieve the very best outcomes for vulnerable children and collaborating continuously in relation to their care.

I love the support groups. Meeting up with other foster carers and sharing experiences, sharing advice with those going through the same thing as you, it really helps.

Carol, foster carer

Differences between a foster agency and a local authority

The ages of children

Foster children placed with agencies like ours tends to be higher. This is because, sadly, it is harder for local authorities to find families for older foster children than it is for babies.

We provide particular support in this area and we advise our foster carers to be as flexible as they can in relation to the age of the foster children they will consider. The rewards of fostering older children are considerable. Read Carol’s frank and emotional story about fostering children of all ages, and how she loves fostering teens.


With a large foster agency like ours, which has the resources, training is second to none. We employ a dedicated and experienced training team offering locally-based training across the UK.

This training is designed to equip our foster carers with all the skills they need to provide the highest level of care for vulnerable children of any age. With excellent national coverage, we offer professional, in-depth and varied training courses at venues local to you.


This is another area where foster agencies like ours really excel. Our supervising social workers (SSWs) typically have a lower caseload than their counterparts within local authorities. This means our SSWs are in the fortunate position of being able to provide more one-to-one support and really get to know foster carers and their families. When you foster with us you will be on first name terms with your SSW, who will be local to you and is available to offer advice and support whenever you need it.

Our foster carers also value our local carer support networks. These put you in contact with other foster carers in your area, who have first-hand experience of whatever challenges you’re facing and can offer support, encouragement and friendly words of advice.

Fees and allowances

Once again, thanks to our size and resources we are able to pay higher fees than most local authorities (and many smaller fostering agencies too). Our fees and allowances are generous, in recognition of the amazing job done by our foster families. And, while income is not a primary motivating factor for most foster carers, it can be reassuring to know that your efforts will be well-rewarded.

Perks and benefits

Many different perks and benefits have been negotiated by National Fostering Group as a thank you to our wonderful fostering community. When you foster with us you will benefit from:

  • Educational support through Britannica School for all the family
  • Generously rewarded carer referral scheme
  • Free membership to The Fostering Network
  • Specialised home insurance
  • The much-loved Max Card, which entitles you to all kinds of discounts and promotions so you can create happy lasting memories for the children in your care
  • Exclusive foster carer discounts and cashback from more than 800 high street retailers via The Hub

These kinds of perks and benefits are usually not provided by local authorities.

Guaranteed payments

Some foster agencies, including us, provide financial peace of mind for foster, allowing them to plan ahead and cover expenses even during the times when they don’t have foster child in their care.

We offer weekly Bridging Retainer Payments for up to six weeks in any rolling 12-month period, plus a payment when the next foster child comes to live with you. The aim is to help you to budget effectively and avoid money worries so you can concentrate on providing great care.

Do you need more information?

Whether you choose to foster with your local authority or with a fostering agency like ours, the difference you make could change a child’s life and will almost certainly change yours too.

If you would like to ask us anything about this topic, please fill out our enquiry form. If you ask for a call back, an advisor from your local National Fostering Group team will get in touch to explain more and answer your questions about foster agencies and local authority fostering.

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