In this article we look at how to go about picking a fostering service that's right for you.
You have two options if you want to foster: you either foster for your local authority (LA), or you join an independent fostering agency (IFA). Local authority fostering services are the fostering teams within your local council. For example, we are the fostering service at Brent Council in the London Borough of Brent. We are located in Wembley, Brent, but recruit people from outside the borough, too. Therefore, if you live in a different borough but relatively close to Brent, you can apply to join us. If you join a LA, you will look after children coming from the area managed by that particular LA. IFA’s, on the other hand, are private companies or not-for-profits which recruit and assess their foster carers independently.
When children come into care, they reach us, the LA, first. If we are unable to find a foster family that's suitable for them, then we go to the IFA's that we work with. They then help us find someone with the right skills to look after that child or sibling group. IFA's usually cover larger areas and have offices across the country.
Before you apply to foster, it is important that you do your research and see which service is most suitable for you. You can visit the websites of various agencies and read about them, search for reviews, ask for information packs or attend information events. Most if not all fostering services, whether they are local authorities or independent, organise regular information sessions. We're currently running online information sessions on Zoom on the first Thursday of every month.
As part of your research, use our list to find out what are the key aspects to look for in an agency and, finally, pick the most suitable one. If you are not happy with your agency, you can transfer to a different one. Changing fostering agencies when you are looking after a child is not desirable because it could disrupt the placement and possibly threaten the young person’s well-being. This is why it is important that you make an informed choice from the beginning.