Choosing a fostering agency to work with

Thought for the day…what should you look for when choosing an agency to foster for?
I find myself answering the question about how to look for a good agency and thought that it would be a good idea to let you know where to start. Whether you are currently with an agency and want to move or are new to fostering, there are some things you can look for before you begin actual enquiries, I hope this helps you to begin your search.
First thing to do is simply google agencies in your area, and don’t forget to also look at your local authority. After you have a basic list of agencies write them down to enable you to make notes on what you find in your search.
Next is that you check the Ofsted report for each and every one. An outstanding is great, but when it says outstanding look to see how old the inspection was, is it an old or a new report? Are they consistent with being outstanding? The same for a good inspection, is it consistent and why are they not outstanding? Also look for anything on the report for what needs work, what needs improvement. There may be some things you find acceptable and others you would not.
After filtering through the Ofsted reports find out what they pay and what is offered for short breaks / respite. Is it “only if needed” or do they really want you to use it? I realise also that some of you will not plan on using it or think that money isn’t important, but it is always better to have the support and not need it than to need it and not have it. If an agency values you, they will value you enough to pay you well enough to not struggle and they will also offer you the time you need to rest when appropriate.
Once you have pay, respite and ofsted sorted look for those agencies that are trauma informed, therapeutic and offer training in therapeutic parenting. The children in your care will have higher needs, they will have suffered trauma and will struggle with many different things. Having an agency that already understands trauma means not having to fight as hard for the support you and the child in your care needs.
Finally, when you have your lists made you can compare and then choose which agencies you really want to spend time interviewing. Ask to speak to foster carers that currently work with them. Do go online and seek others who have experience with those agencies. Remember that what works for one agency does not work for another (so don’t listen to just one person, this is a very personal choice and the fit must be right for you).
I hope this helps you to find the right agency to go with. What is right for one person is not always right for the next. It is ok if you decide for one and not another based on your life experiences and your needs. In fact, this is exactly how you should pick an agency, you need to choose one that fits you. Good luck! I hope you find your perfect fit the first time.