Becoming a foster parent: Agency or Local Authority?

(32 Posts)
fourlegstwolegs Thu 16-Jan-14 09:38:13

Since having my own child I have wanted to help other children. I have just started looking into it all, but am already confused by agencies/local authorities. What are the pros and cons of each?
I have many more questions but will start with this one!

Mummypenny Thu 16-Jan-14 13:12:11

This is probably the most common question asked.

La is local authority, so its your local council. Agencies are companies set up that charge local authorities high rates to take children that the LA can't place.

This is not set in stone but the general idea
LA- less pay, younger children, less gaps between placements
Agency- Higher pay, teens or difficult to place children, longer gaps between placements.

Some say agencies give better support, some say their LA gives them fantastic support. Depends where you live and which agency.

fourlegstwolegs Thu 16-Jan-14 17:02:20

Thank you. Hampshire, for what it's worth.

kittymonkeymummy Thu 16-Jan-14 18:47:51

Hi, with agency you're more likely to get sibling groups, so you can get a mixture of ages (including babies) or older children/teenagers and they are likely to show more challenging behaviour, however from what foster carers say in my agency, they have been quite lucky and children are not as challenging as some may have expected.
The gaps between placements depend very much on your personal / family situation, the area where you live and what age group / how many children you're accepted for, also what agency you're with, some IFAs (agencies) are more popular with LAs than the others.
Yes, the agency does charge high rates and therefore there's a lot of access to training, books and support, the latter both for children and foster carers.
I agree that it depends where you live and what agency you're with, unfortunately I know nothing about Hampshire. Good luck!

fasparent Fri 17-Jan-14 02:43:52

There were 5 IFA's advertising in our local paper tonight two offering in advance of £32,000 pa. Goodness knows the cost too LA's and Tax payers.
Goodness knows how children in care feel when reading such things , so insensitive, Thought children being farmed out of area was being addressed a very obvious U-turn. Think I favour LA's better for my conscience .

Mummypenny Fri 17-Jan-14 09:20:58

I have to say, we are going with LA, the communication has been good, no one has ever been late or cancelled. They have done everything they say they will and we don't have panel till April but have been sent on inter agency child protection and paediatric first aid. Though this could all change when we meet our supporting social worker or children's social workers but the horror stories I hear about some LA's do scare you, so far so good for us though.

floatyjosmum Sat 18-Jan-14 23:09:08

Fas parent - la's pay around £850 per week per child to Ifa's with 10% off for a sib in the same placement.
If a child needs to be on their own they could be paying £1200 a week!

JoJo90 Thu 23-Jan-14 17:55:39

Hi

We made initial enquiries with a LA and began the application process with them, we quickly realised that the SW had a massive case load and after a 7 week period of no contact whatsoever we decided to withdraw the application - we made enquiries with an IFA, they came out for their initial visit a week later in December 12 and the following July 13 we were approved at Panel. It took 6 months before our first proper placement came (doing some respite in the meantime) but the support from the IFA has been great (and they have more generous allowances).

fostermonkey Sun 26-Jan-14 10:31:48

We're LA, had super support and training - the process was easy and fun. The pay is poorer than IFA to start but, after 2 years you can be pretty much on the same pay - this is totally down to how well the LA pays. Some pay a lot more than others.
I did LA as I wanted 0-5 year olds, and little time between placements (you don't get paid between). We've had no gaps, and had single children and sibling pairs. You'll get a feeling for what you want to do when you approach the local LAs. If you want to do younger children then LA may be the way. If you are happy to do sibling groups, more difficult children and teens then IFA may be better.

DesperatelySeekingSanity Sun 26-Jan-14 10:46:31

Worth looking at the various schemes your LA and any neighbouring ones have too. Some LA schemes are highly specialist with a lot of support and training - have a google at Multidisciplinary Treatment Foster Care for example (not all LAs do this, but if yours does it is a very professional service.

What sort of fostering do you want to do? Separate schemes and separate contacts in a lot of places too if you want to do fostering for children with disabilities, mother and baby, respite or shared lives type stuff.

Try and find some local carers and see who they foster through and what they think of the support available.

fasparent Fri 31-Jan-14 23:28:43

We seem too be in a cash for Kids Culture and it's growing Two of UK's largest are IFA private equity company's LA's unwittingly pay hundreds of million £ every year, Fostering Solutions for example is part of a pension fund for teachers in CANADA. UK National Fostering Agency bought by sovereign capital for £130m. others Acorn Care , Fostering Solutions, Advanced Child Care etc.etc.. All owned by global private equity orgs. and people investing surplus cash. Mainly in USA and Canada. Service will be good but as time passes money don't talk
services and standard's will be lower as we see in residential care homes for the elderly.
Think I will stick with me LA.

caz2go Sat 01-Feb-14 10:51:37

Sadly we made the mistake of choosing an ifa( A very well known national one ).We fostered long term placements and must have been very profitable to the ipa .
When I fell ill and regretfully decided we no longer were able to take another child on a long term/permanent basis and informed the ipa we could only accept short term /respite placements due to my uncertain future health ,we now find ourselves unwanted and surplus to requirements ,they have told us they have no placements for us at all unless we accept another long term despite us repeatably telling them this isnt now possible. We can only assume we are no longer profitable to them.
We have been left upset and deeply troubled by the realisation that profit does indeed come before the children with some ipa,s.
We have now decided to give our notice to the ipa and are considering contacting our L/a, I wish we had done this to start with .Caz x

NanaNina Thu 06-Feb-14 12:01:11

That's really interesting fasparent and I think you've hit the nail on the head "kids for cash" - can I ask how you found out those details. I have a friend who is currently working for Advanced Childcare and says there are a "one of the better IFAs" but seems not. It's horrendous isn't it but of course this is what the govt want don't they - all public services privatised. Then of course they are slashing the budgets of public services but at the same time wanting improved services! Grrrrh I hate this govt - the even make Margaret Thatcher look vaguely reasonable and I never though such words would utter from my lips, or the tips of my fingers!!

caz2go So sorry that you have been prevented from fostering through ill health but I am not surprised at all that you are indeed now surplus to requirements for this IFA. I'd like to think that a LA would have a more empathetic standpoint on your position and maybe look at approving you for respite, but that all depends on the specific LA. I worked in a Shire County Children's Services for 25 years and I know we always treated our foster carer's well. I am now retired but hear from friends and colleagues still working that things have changed dramatically because of the budget cuts.

I think all IFAs are in it for the profit. They are a business and businesses are set up to make profit. Some of them say they are "not-for-profit" but all this means is that they don't pay shareholders, but this doesn't stop them from paying themselves (the Directors) huge salaries. I have seen many IFA directors get very rich very quickly and as FAS has pointed out, they then sell to even bigger fish, as they have made sufficient money to retire, probably in Barbados!

All very sad.

fasparent Thu 06-Feb-14 16:51:18

Article in the Times Newspaper and Other's , So all is credible information. Do my home work.

fasparent Thu 06-Feb-14 16:58:53

Nana Nina if you Google " Fostering and Adoption UK Private Equity" you will be able too read all what is going on and by who .

NanaNina Thu 06-Feb-14 18:44:47

Thanks fasparent

fasparent Thu 06-Feb-14 20:32:12

YES Nana Nina it is "Cash for KID'S" These Private Equity Firm's and Large Charity's can only survive with children being kept in care many for life . I Know from personal experience , Also have seen recent reputable SEN Schools become private children's homes . Some small firms going into receivership then their services being shared out , Have even been offered free Offices and Conference facility too attract SEN Children from LA's. They with little or no experience trying too attracting children with specific needs ., also set up assessment clinics charging LA's lots of cash for child assessment , one went BUST leaving Children , family's, and LA's high and dry , Assessment's cost £3000 too £20000.

suzylee73 Sun 09-Feb-14 09:38:16

I fully understand the financial situations caused by IFA's. However, I work for an IFA and I am paid, treated and respected as a fostering professional. If I worked for my local LA this would not be the case. Until all LA's can offer a reasonable pay scale then IFA's will sadly exist.
I wish it was different but I certainly don't feel any kind of guilt for choosing IFA.

Fathertedfan Sun 09-Feb-14 20:15:23

We have worked for an IFA for many years. we've had some extremely challenging children over the years and appreciate all the support our agency has provided us with. It can be relentless work with huge financial costs that have to be funded from our 'salary' including replacing items in our home from deliberate destruction sprees, enormous petrol bills to drive children to contact miles and miles away and collect from police stations when they have absconded etc. compulsory pocket money, savings, clothing allowance, birthday allowance, Christmas allowance - the list of expenses goes on and on. We are professionals who do a professional job - one of us has to be at home at all times, and there is compulsory training to attend, school meetings, appointments, reviews etc. We couldn't possibly manage to fund all of this on what the local authority pay their carers, so working for an LA is simply not financially viable

bjt35x Mon 10-Feb-14 13:16:45

Hi,
we have just registered our interest with both barnardos and lancs cc we would like to see what both agency and LA have to say.But I am also interested in what people that have perhaps done both have to say ( nothing like experience. ) WHICH ONE ? (Pros & cons)
A little of what we have to offer/background. We have 4 spare bedrooms all with own bathroom and a seperate 2 bed annex. Our children are grown up age 24 and 18 one a criminologist and one in raf, so now is the right time to foster for us my husband and I run a successful business and I am at home all day i am 42yrs old he is 45yrs old.I was a trained nurse working for bupa 15yrs. I now do a couple of hours a day working from home paperwork for our business.

NanaNina Mon 10-Feb-14 16:23:27

Can I just say that I certainly do not blame foster carers who choose to foster for an IFA in any sense whatsoever. In fact I sometimes wonder how it is that LAs manage to retain any foster carers at all.

I think that I can say with certainty that Barnardoes will get back to you promptly after your initial enquiry, send you details of their schemes and get a social worker out to see you, get you on a preparation course and get you approved, well before a LA. The reason for this is because IFAs and voluntary organisations like Barnardoes have enough social workers to be able to make a quick response and take applicants through the process as quickly as possible. The opposite is true for LA social workers who are almost all totally overloaded with work.

The system also creates "two tiers" of childcare because the children fostered by a vol org or an IFA will have all sorts of additional services if they are necessary and this is because all of this (and the additional social workers) are all costed into the amount the LAs have to pay for an IFA or vol org placement. The child placed in LA care wil not have any additional services and this of course is most unfair, but that's how things work and the govt are encouraging privatisation every which way.

I am not sure what age you are considering, how many, short or long term and these will be matters you will need to discuss with Barnardoes and the LA. IF you decide to go with Barnardoes I think it is imperative that you are aware that they do not have any children (all their children's homes closed down many years ago) and the children will be those that are in the care of the LA, hence Barnardoes will have to try to "Sell" you to a LA, and this of course depletes the budgets of LAs still further because of the high costs of IFAs and to a lesser extent Barnardoes.

Finally when you have decided about age range and numbers of children and if you are going to go with Barnardoes I would suggest you ask them how many children of that age range they have placed say in the last 2 years. I say this because more and more LAs are cash strapped because of the huge cuts this govt is demanding, and they are even having to leave children in unsafe homes because they cannot afford to look after them.

You sound ideal foster carers and I wish you well whichever way you go.

kendalmintcake0311 Tue 11-Feb-14 09:58:07

Hi bjt , we are currently going through our assessment with Lancs CC and i must admit they have been brilliant, we made our initial phone call in October 2013 and have got a panel date for March almost 5 months to the date of our very 1st call smile which from what i gather is very fast compared to some. We have been on the Skills to Foster Training course, medicals, crb checks, references, house assessment and all our grown up children have been chatted to in this short space of time. Our ssw must be well on the ball grin Our experience up to now has been very positive and i would have no reservations in saying to pick the LA. We are now just waiting to sign off our last bit of paperwork then we can just wait for our panel date...... Positive vibes needed please grin

Beaka Tue 11-Feb-14 11:38:09

You are very lucky kendalmintcake. I'm going with LA and like you made my initial phone call in Oct, however I am still waiting for my son's dbs check to come back (started 5th Dec) before they can sign off part one of the assessment and he doesn't even live with me! Needless to say I'm getting very frustrated now x

NanaNina Wed 12-Feb-14 00:24:40

Great to hear of your experience with the LA kendalmintcake and you will be fine I'm sure. Don't forget the panel is not there to trip you up or ask awkward questions. Fostering panels are multi disciplinary and it isn't meant to be a question and answer session but it can of course seem like that. We always started our panel with asking about how they got on with the prep course - was there anything that stood out, and was it helpful etc., and this sort of breaks the ice. Then 3 or 4 of the panel members will take up an issue with you, and most people relax once they can see no one is trying to trip them up! Mind I think the worst part for applicants is having to walk into a room with around 12 strangers!

Beaka I can understand your frustration but the LA don't have any control over how long the DBS's take to come back. They usually take between 4 and 6 weeks but they have to be returned within 60 days, so that's 2 months. It's a right pain I know, but hope you can stick with it. The problem is that many LAs are seriously short of social workers and this is mainly what causes the delays. It's made worse by the fact that they can't recruit new staff, partly because there aren't enough applicants and partly because they don't have the funds because of all the budget cuts, so these vacant posts stay "frozen" - believe me it is frustrating for social workers too. Having said all that sometimes the delays are avoidable and I think you should be asking about the process and how long it is going to take so at least you know the score.

Beaka Wed 12-Feb-14 12:01:18

Thank you NanaNina for the info. I have contacted SS again (they don't give me an update unless I ask!) and they have contacted dbs and made it 'urgent'. Having said that it has now been 70 days and as I have had a SW allocated and all other checks are done you will understand my frustration. I am definitely sticking with it, just very frustrated atm! xx

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