All children in the care system are under the guardianship of a local authority (LA).
The local authority is responsible for finding each child in care a suitable foster home. However, the LA can struggle to place children with carers under their local authority due to a limited number of foster parents being available, or carers not having the right skills and experience to care for children with specific needs.
This is where Independent Fostering Agencies (IFAs) like FCA come in. But, what are the differences between LAs and IFAs, and how do they work together?
The differences between LAs and IFAs
When making the decision to become a foster parent, one of the main points to consider is whether you foster with an LA or an IFA. In order to make the right decision for you and your family, it’s important to understand the differences between the two, and there are several including:
- Number of foster parents- IFAs tend to be smaller and more close-knit than LAs, which allows for greater support, training, and contact.
- Location and geographical scope - The scope of LAs typically only stretches to the local area, while IFAs serve a wider area.
- Fees, allowances, and benefits - while all carers receive a fostering fee and an income, IFAs typically pay a larger fee than LAs.
- Types of fostering available - Short-term placements tend to be more common with LAs while IFAs offer a broad range of fostering options.
A local authority is essentially a local council in a specific area, county, or region. Local authorities have an incredibly important job as they are responsible for the outcomes and safeguarding of all the children in foster care (including those placed through IFAs).
An independent fostering agency works with the local authorities to provide foster care to children in need of a loving and secure home. This tends to happen when an LA is unable to place a child with one of their foster families. IFAs have a more ‘family feel’ than local authorities, which comes with many benefits, which we’ll look at later.
Just like independent, or private, foster agencies, LAs place vulnerable children and young people with foster families that will care for them. Because LAs look to place children with foster parents first, when a child comes into their care foster parents receive placements quickly and regularly.
Typically, local authorities aren’t able to pay their foster carers as competitively as private agencies are. This can be an important factor to consider if you are considering fostering, as, when you foster, it is a career, so you need to be sure you are being paid competitively.
Reasons why children are placed with IFAs
There are times when children are placed with IFAs over LAs. The reason why independent fostering agencies came about was that the local authorities began to reach maximum capacity, and they just couldn’t cope with the number of children in care needing foster parents.
As the population has grown, the demand for safe and secure foster homes and the need for children’s protection has grown with it, so there is an urgent need for IFAs and their foster carers.
Local authorities need private foster agencies to support the foster care system, and this is exactly what they do.
How FCA works with LAs across the UK
Independent agencies like us at FCA, have a very positive relationship with LAs and work closely with local authorities to find suitable foster parents for children and young people in their care when they are not able to place them with one of their own approved foster parents.
Now, this can happen for several reasons. The LA might have a shortage of registered carers available, or they might not have a foster parent who has the correct approval or willingness to take on certain placement types, or the child might have additional medical or emotional needs.
At FCA, we are specially equipped to deal with all these situations, including foster parents who undergo extensive training, so they are able to care for such children, always with the 24/7 support we offer.
Benefits of fostering with an IFA
While the care, wellbeing, and safeguarding of children is always the number one priority with both LAs and IFAs, they do have key differences, including different processes, approaches, and benefits.
At FCA, we have the time and dedication to provide the very best support for foster carers. This includes:
- 24/7 support 365 days a year, our team is always available should you need any advice, help, or just a friendly ear.
- Access to your own dedicated social worker.
- Extensive, ongoing training and development to prepare you for your new role and to keep developing your skills.
- FosterTalk membership which is our service offering free confidential and impartial advice and guidance.
- Online portal access with free information, advice, discounts, and offers to some major retailers and online stores.
- Lots of fun events throughout the year for the whole family.
You will also have access to professional wrap-around support and expertise at all times, along with ongoing training and development.
Another main benefit of fostering with an independent fostering agency like FCA, is the allowances and rewards.
Fostering is an extremely rewarding career, but it’s also a challenging one that requires patience, care, empathy, understanding, and much more. That’s why we believe our foster carers deserve to be rewarded for their hard work. When you foster with FCA, you’ll receive generous fostering allowances and payments, so you can not only fully support your foster child, but earn a competitive salary too.
On average, our foster carers can receive approximately £435 per child, per week (depending on where you live, the age and number of children in your care, the type of fostering placement you choose, your experience, etc).
You’ll also be entitled to these benefits:
- As fostering is generally a tax-free profession, you shouldn’t need to pay National Insurance
- Discounts and rewards
- A summer and winter bonus payment each year
- 14 nights paid respite
- An appreciation bonus each year
Start your fostering journey with FCA
At FCA, we have the experience and expertise to help you learn all the skills you need to become an amazing foster parent, and we are able to pay you the fee and reward you with the benefits you deserve for all your hard work in making a difference to a vulnerable child’s life.
If you’d like to know more, give our team a call today and we’d love to answer any questions you might have about fostering with an independent fostering agency,
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