So, you have made the decision to become a foster carer. The next step is to decide which organisation to foster through.
There are many aspects to consider when choosing a fostering agency, including fees, allowances and support packages. It is important to find a balance between carer benefits and placement guidance.
Where possible, look at the specifics; see the extent to which the agency’s social workers will support you, the in-house professionals they have available, and even the likelihood of you being placed on a waiting list should a child exhibit challenging behaviour.
To help you decide between fostering agencies, we have created the below checklist.
Discover if their allowances are care-based
Fees and allowances should not be the sole motivator in becoming a foster carer. However, it can be reassuring for a carer to know that they will be well-equipped to provide for both the foster child and their own family. These allowances are split between expenses and costs for the foster child and fees for providing care and support.
At CFS Fostering, we vary fees and allowances based on the needs of the child. We would suggest looking for agencies who operate within that same model. An agency that specifically draws attention to the financial benefits of fostering may be covering for a lack of expertise internally. So, take note of how financial support is administered and weigh that against their care package to gain a full understanding.
Ensure there is 24/7 support
Before fostering, first-time carers can become apprehensive about being left alone with a child. Having professionals on-hand to help address challenging behaviour can give some much-needed peace of mind. Therefore, the true availability of social workers and other professionals should be a key factor in deciding between fostering agencies.
Ask your prospective agency what their policy is on out-of-hours contact time, and who will be supporting you during this time. It is one thing to have a voice on the end of the phone when troubling behaviour occurs, and quite another to have the support of a leading professional that is capable of disarming a situation or providing comfort in the form of advice.
Ask whether professionals are based in-house
Enquire about the skills within your chosen agency. Ultimately, 24/7 support needs to be backed by informed guidance. An agency that is committed to creating lasting placements should understand the benefit of psychologists, therapists, and health and wellbeing specialists.
These professionals additionally need to be available in a flexible capacity, so find out what average waiting time you can expect in a worst-case scenario. For example, if an agency claims that they will arrange for you to meet a play therapist only to place you on the waiting list for an external therapist, you could be better supported elsewhere.
Look at the training they will provide
Training plays an essential role in fostering. All carers will need to learn certain methodologies and procedures that will benefit the family unit as well as the foster child. At CFS Fostering, for example, we make this process as comprehensive as possible. Our carers receive training pre- and post-approval, and we offer tailor-made courses that are specific to your circumstances. These courses may be provided online as well as in face-to-face sessions with qualified, experienced professionals.
If you would like to receive training on supporting young people who self-harm, for instance, our staff will encourage and support you to identify the training that can develop your skill-set in this way. Children’s needs change as they grow, so choose an agency that will develop your ability to address different behaviours.
Choose an agency that offers support throughout placements
The freedom to lean on the skills of psychologists and therapists is a necessity. But what about weekly guidance? Who should answer questions that would not qualify as an emergency, yet still concern the welfare of the child? Carers can feel uncertain where to seek regular support, so it is important to establish answers to these questions.
At CFS Fostering, we place you with a fostering support worker who can work with you to ensure the longevity of your foster child’s placement. However, this practice is not universal, so be sure to ask the agencies that you are considering what they do to ease the workload of your new role.