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What is a fostering agency? Differences between fostering agencies and local authorities

It’s really important to do your research if you’re thinking about fostering. Not only to ensure that it is the right life choice for you. But also to decide how you want to establish your career as a foster carer.

There are a number of routes you can explore. There’s the option of fostering via a Local Authority or fostering through an Independent Fostering Agency (IFA), such as Five Rivers.

Is it better to foster with a council or agency?

Choosing to foster with an IFA offers a number of additional benefits, starting with increased support and training. The level of support we provide each and every foster carer is unparalleled. As is the wide variety of training we offer. During your assessment, you’ll undertake a ‘Skills to Foster’ preparation course.

What to expect – fostering training and support

Once approved as a Five Rivers foster carer, you’ll regularly receive ongoing training and development. Furthermore, if a child or young person with additional or specific needs is placed in your care, we will provide specialist training for you.

We are proud to be able to provide foster carers with a range of support systems from social workers to clinical and educational professionals.

We also offer all Five Rivers foster carers the chance to attend regular foster care support meetings. These meetings are in addition to an out-of-hours support service to ensure any issues can be resolved any time.

Fostering allowance differences explained

You can also expect significantly higher foster carer allowances if you choose to foster with an IFA. The government sets a minimum fostering care allowance to help with the cost of fostering. Our foster carers receive a professional fee as well as a fostering allowance.

The allowance covers the costs of looking after a foster child, for things like food, clothes, basic travel and increased household bills. The fees and other allowances can vary depending on the needs of the child placed. These fees are generally higher than a carer would receive were they looking after that child as a Local Authority foster carer.

There are a number of practical differences to think about too. Although not always the case, children placed via a Local Authority tend to be younger. Whereas, we often receive slightly older children/young people in need of a foster family. Generally, this tends to be because Local Authorities find it easier to place young children and babies with foster families. We work with our foster carers to ensure they are prepared to welcome any child or young person into their home. Through training and support, we equip them with the tools and skills to care for both young and older children.

How do fostering agencies make money?

Fostering agencies work with local authorities to find safe homes for children and young people and receive funding from the councils to do this. Five Rivers operates differently to many other private foster care agencies. We are a social enterprise, which means significant funds are reinvested back into the organisation. In turn, this allows us to provide higher levels of support than is available to Local Authority foster carers.

Our social enterprise status, helps us be the very best we can be for:

  • Our staff
  • Our foster carers
  • The children and young people we look after.

How do I choose a fostering agency?

Our biggest tip when looking into a career in foster care would be to ask lots of questions. Speak to both IFAs and your Local Authority. It’s important to find the right fit for you. You need to feel confident that you’ll have access to the right level of support and guidance to make sure it’s the right choice for you.

We’re always happy to speak to anyone interested in finding out more about a career in foster care. To speak to a member of the Five Rivers recruitment team, call 0345 266 0272 or fill in an initial enquiry form here.

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