When it comes to fostering, most people don’t realise just how many different providers there are to choose from.
Usually it starts with a google search for ‘fostering near me’ or ‘become a foster carer’. The search results show you dozens of pages and you think to yourself, ‘What's this? I didn't realise there were so many options. Which fostering agency should I go with?’
We’ve heard it before and we understand. To help decide which fostering agency is right for you, here are 3 Top Questions to Ask When Choosing a Fostering Agency.
1. What support do you offer?
This should be high up on your list of questions. Many fostering agencies are owned and run by large private-equity providers. These agencies dominate the fostering landscape and they must evidence returns for their shareholders. It’s sad to say, but it's the truth. For many of these agencies, competitive allowances, 24/7 support, your own social worker and full training are advertised like they are unique selling points. They are not. The bare minimum you should expect as a foster carer is the following;
- - A competitive fostering allowance
- - Your own allocated supervising social worker
- - 24/7 support from the agency you foster with
- - Full training provided free of charge to all approved foster carers
These are the basics that all foster carers should expect. It's what you as a foster carer will need to do the job properly. Fostering is a vocation for many people, it is not a 9-5, Monday to Friday role.
So, what else does the fostering agency or local authority offer you? When it comes to support in addition to what all carers should expect, here is an example of the extra support we offer;
- - In-house therapists providing direct support to foster carers
- - Consultations available with a Clinical Psychologist
- - Monthly support groups with local carers in your area
- - A dedicated child-support team for your young people (including birth children)
- - A calendar of up to 20 children’s activities organised by us (e.g. Alton Towers, X Factor live)
- - PGL Action Adventure weekend for all young people (including birth children)
- - Access to Level 3 Diploma in the Children’s and Young People’s workforce (fully funded)
Why do we offer this extra support? Because our focus is on significantly improving children's lives, not on pleasing shareholders. Many young people in foster care have experienced significant adverse childhood experiences. We believe these young people deserve as much support as we can offer.
Ensuring foster carers are properly supported is part of this commitment, and we consider this as part of our duty of care to our foster families. And by providing life-enhancing experiences for children such as PGL residential trips, numerous activities and sessional work from our support services team, young people will have the best chance of recovery from trauma.
2. What Training do you offer?
Training courses will vary slightly from one place to the next, but all approved carers must adhere to the training standards set by Ofsted. Each organisation will have mandatory training that broadly follows these standards.
For Family Care, training is broken down into three-year cycles. In your first year of approval, you must complete five face-to-face training courses and three e-learning courses. In years 2 and 3 you must complete three face-to-face courses and three e-learning courses. These expectations are renewed every three years. Training subjects include;
- Safeguarding and Child Protection
- The Secure Base Therapeutic Model of Care
- Safer Caring and Allegations
- Paediatric First Aid
- Child Development
- Communicating with Children
- Child Sexual Exploitation
- Equality and Diversity
- Stress Management
- Transitions and Endings
Training must be completed by all approved foster carers in the household. Attending and completing mandatory training is part of your commitment to delivering the best standards of care to your young people. There are other development training courses you can complete and new ones are added regularly based on your feedback and recommendations.
In addition, we offer foster families the option of completing a Level 3 Diploma in the Children and Young People’s Workforce, fully funded. Your fostering agency or local authority should be making a similar investment in your development as a foster carer.
Another question to consider here is where the training is based. If you live in Manchester and all the training is in Liverpool, will you be reimbursed mileage? Family Care offer this at 25p a mile.
3. What is your fostering allowance?
We know foster carers don’t do this for the money, but the bills still need to be paid. Don’t feel awkward about asking this question. We usually expect at least one foster carer to be available full-time, so fostering allowances are important. Your fostering allowance should cover the expenses of supporting a young person as well as reward you for the hard work you put in.
When considering the difference between fostering for a local authority or an agency, fostering allowances and the support you will receive are commonly cited. We can’t speak for all local authorities or all agencies, but typically, agencies will pay higher allowances and provide more support than local authorities.
With Family Care, you will receive between £340 - £480/week for each child in your care. The variation depends on a number of factors such as the age and needs of the young person and the skills/experience of the foster family.
We break our fostering allowance down into two parts; a boarding-out fee and a professional fee. The boarding-out fee is paid to cover the daily costs of caring for a young person. The professional fee is a payment made to recognise the skills of the carer and is based on the foster carer’s registration.
Our professional fee has three grades (Band A, B and C) and foster carers move up the grades as their skills develop and they gain more experience. To reach the highest grade (Band C) you must complete our training programme culminating with a Level 3 Diploma for the Children’s and Young People’s Workforce.
You will also receive up to 2-weeks annual leave payment every year.
So, there you have it. These are the three questions we think you should always be asking when choosing a fostering agency.
We hope this guidance has been helpful to you, and of course if you are thinking about becoming a foster carer we would like you to get in touch. We are a family-owned, deliberately small agency who prioritise children’s outcomes. No ifs, no buts.
To speak with us about fostering, submit an enquiry below or call us on 0800 5 677 677.
Healing Pasts | Building Futures