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How Independent Fostering Agencies Can Help

For busy Local Authority social workers, suddenly finding a child they work with placed in an Independent Fostering Agency can be a bit different from the norm. Firstly the agency start requesting all the necessary paperwork for a looked after child and additional information on top of that – risk assessments, placement agreement forms etc. It can be a bit daunting when all the social worker wants to do is settle a needy child in a safe place and move on to the next dilemma!

The aforementioned paperwork can’t be avoided and having it on file is a requirement of OFSTED for all fostering agencies, which, like Local Authority fostering teams are rigorously inspected. However once this process is completed, the fostering agency is there to help you. Each foster carer has a supervising social worker with a relatively protected caseload so which means they have more time than many busy social workers to support the carer in delivering a good service both to you and the children in placement. To make the most of the placement it is vital that the supervising social worker is your first port of call. She or he can negotiate finer details and requests from you with the foster carer so that your wishes can be fulfilled. For example you may need additional support for contact with birth family or getting the chid to and from school – this is something that needs to be discussed with the social worker in the first instance. The role of the supervising social worker is to protect the foster carer from any unnecessary stress and thus allow them to concentrate on the important task of caring for children. He or she needs to be included in the lines of communication in order to make this happen smoothly.

Additional services provided by the agency include family support workers, life story work with children, contact supervision, support when a child is out of school and many others. These services can be negotiated with the social worker at the time of the placement or at a later stage if the need arises.

Most social workers who have used independent fostering agencies have found the quality of work to be as good if not better than that of their Local Authority counterparts. This is largely because of the lower caseloads held by the agency social worker, which enables them to provide excellent support to the foster carer. In addition, the extra services that can be offered by the agency can often really make the difference. Agencies are willing and able to help in any way they can and to make life easier for busy social workers.

South African born Keith has lived in the south of England for most of his life. After graduating from University with a degree in Business Information Systems Management he decided to start Strawberrysoup a website design company based in West Sussex and Dorset. Keith successfully gained entry into the Southampton University Air Squadron and spent over 12 months training to fly. Since then he has continued to follow his interest in flying and has now began his own training in the form of a Private Pilot’s Licence. Keith also spent 13 months working within the Image and Printing Group at Hewlett Packard in Bracknell. Throughout his time there, he was responsible for many activities including events organisation and website design and maintenance.

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