The belief that private companies dominate independent fostering
is challenged by a new report, which reveals that only 20 per cent
of independent agencies are for profit, writes Terry
Results of a study by the University of East Anglia, announced
at the National Foster Care Association annual conference, revealed
that 60 per cent of organisations are not for profit and a further
20 per cent are religious based or off-shoots of long-established
The National Survey of Independent Fostering Agencies
also questions the view that the independent sector creams off
local authority foster carers. It found that while a third of the
1,963 foster carers employed by the 55 agencies surveyed had worked
in the statutory sector, 46 per cent had no previous experience of
fostering. Many had given up jobs as teachers, nurses and social
Clive Sellick, senior lecturer in social work at UEA and joint
author of the report, told the conference that “independent
fostering agencies are fishing in a different pool”.
However, independent agencies were more likely to attract social
workers from social services departments. Of 293 employees, 181 had
come from local authority area teams. In all more than 600 had
joined the independent foster care sector, attracted by flexible
and varied working arrangements.
Eleven per cent of fostered children are cared for by the
independent sector, and 75 per cent of them are white. Twenty eight
per cent of children were placed after a local authority placement
The report’s authors estimate there are about 4,000
independent foster carers in mainland UK. Five times as many joined
the sector as left it. Eighty nine per cent were married couples
and 82 per cent were white, but in many couples, the husband was
the foster carer.
Sellick and Connolly found that the mean charge by agencies to
local authorities was £683 per child per week, and foster
carers got between £206 to £418 a week.