Choosing an agency to foster with is a huge decision. Not every foster care agency is the same, though every agency has the same goal of providing care for looked after children.
Here, we explain more about how you can choose a fostering agency that aligns with your goals, needs and personal circumstances, including the different types of fostering agencies in the UK.
The different types of fostering agencies in the UK
Local authority fostering agencies
Most local authorities across the UK operate a fostering service, who work alongside the council and social care teams to assess the right level of care needed for young people who live in their council area.
Fostering Rotherham is a local authority fostering agency and is part of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council - you might have seen the RMBC logo at the bottom of our website or on one of our information packs.
Our teams work in partnership with social workers to find the right home for every looked after child, which may be in a foster care arrangement or in a residential children’s home.
We always try to match our children with our in-house foster carers before we consider looking for a home match with an IFA. This means that you are unlikely to have gaps between home matches.
This also means you are often more likely to receive opportunities to care for children from a wider age range and a different range of needs.
Foster carers that work with local authorities live close to their council’s main offices, so training is likely to be local and personalised to your local area.
Also, this means foster carers can meet in person more often to offer support and make new friends.
You can learn more about our extensive support offering in our information pack, which you can download here.
Independent fostering agencies
The other type of fostering agency is an independent fostering agency (or IFAs, as they are more commonly known). Some IFAs operate as non-profit organisations, or as charities, while others are for-profit businesses.
There are hundreds of IFAs in the UK, some of which operate nationally, while others only recruit foster carers from specific regions or cities.
Other IFAs may also specialise in working with foster carers with specific religious beliefs, or may only work with foster carers to support looked after children with specific needs.
In some areas of the UK there are not enough local authority foster carers to care for the number of children who require support. In these cases, IFAs work with local authorities to provide a safe and supportive home with one of their foster carers.
This may mean foster carers with IFAs have wider gaps between placements, as local authority carers are often contacted first.
10 questions to ask yourself when choosing a fostering agency
What support does the fostering agency provide for the looked after child?
What support does the fostering agency offer foster carers and their family?
Does the fostering agency offer regular training and professional development opportunities for the foster carer?
What opportunities are there to meet other foster carers?
Where does the training take place, and is it local to my home address?
Who can I contact if I have an issue, and is there an out-of-hours service I can contact?
What pay will I receive as a foster carer?
What other benefits does this fostering agency offer to support me and the looked after child?
How often do current carers have a child living in their home?
When am I free to speak to the Fostering Rotherham team?
Learn more about fostering in Rotherham
No matter which fostering agency you choose, foster carers from both local authorities and IFAs provide essential support to children and young people across the country.
If you live in the Rotherham area, we would love to hear from you. You can download our comprehensive information pack and financial support guides here.
You can also book a call back with our friendly team to learn more about fostering. We are happy to answer any questions you may have about how fostering could work for you. Book a call back at a time that’s convenient for you here.