What are the types of fostering providers?

The provision of foster care for children and young persons to support their well being is from the hard work and commitment of foster carers. The foster carers themselves need to complete relevant foster care training (including safeguarding), have an assessment on their suitability to foster and be subject to relevant checks and references. The foster carer is therefore approved by a fostering provider that is regulated and inspected by Ofsted and ensures compliance with the fostering regulations.

Fostering providers are broadly split into three key groups being Local Authority providers, Independent Fostering Agencies and Fostering Charities.

Local Authority providers

This is the Local Authority where the relevant foster carer lives and their household is located. The Local Authority is also responsible for the children and young persons within their Local Authority boundary – their responsibilities also cover the wider public services under their areas.

The Local Authority will have a fostering provision and service that is financed from public funding. There are 156 Local Authority providers overall across England.

It can be challenging for the Local Authority to recruit foster carers overall to meet the support needs for their children and young persons. This has been made more difficult from the overall increase of children in care across England.

If a Local Authority does not have a foster carer available, they look to place the child or young with an external provider.

Independent Fostering Agencies

This is an independent organisation that links up and works with the relevant Local Authority. Local Authorities share details of children and young through referrals and the Independent Fostering Agencies will provide their most well matched foster carer. Independent agencies are registered with Ofsted and have inspections. It is the primary aim and focus of the independent fostering to recruit and support carers. The agency will have social work and other staff to support their carers, providing training and events.

Independent Fostering Agencies are either companies or charitable organisations. Companies either have national coverage through larger groups or a local focus. At Beacon Fostering, we are focused on North West England only for example.

Charitable Fostering agencies

These are charitable groups or not for profit providers that are also Independent Fostering Agencies but have a different corporate structure given their charitable status or not for profit delivery. Their fostering provision is subject to the same fostering regulations and Ofsted registration.

How to decide on Local Authority compared to an Independent Fostering Agency?

If you are looking to become a foster carer, what are the areas you should consider on the decision for you on your provider? There are different factors to take into account including:

· The type of need or level of challenging behaviour you wish to support for the child or young person. The overall needs can be higher for children and young persons with Independent Fostering Agencies

· Your financial support and foster carer payments. Independent Fostering Agencies often provide overall higher carer payments on average. You should ask both the Local Authority and Independent Fostering Agency about their support levels and payments.

· Where you are located and how close the Independent Fostering Agency is to you compared to your Local Authority support office.

· Your overall support and how often you may want to spend time with a social worker, attend events and support groups. Social worker will look to ensure they visit you regularly particularly when you have a child or young person placed with you. Independent Fostering Agencies tend to have a higher resource level and therefore can visit more often.

The most important consideration is what will work best for you when fostering.