Study challenges assumptions on shape of fostering in the UK

The belief that private companies dominate
independent fostering is challenged by a new report that reveals
only 20 per cent of independent agencies are for profit.

Results of a study by the University of East
Anglia, announced at the annual conference of National Foster Care
Association, revealed that 60 per cent of organisations are not for
profit and a further 20 per cent are religious-based or offshoots
of long-established voluntary groups.

The study 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 workers.

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

However, independent agencies were more likely
to attract social workers from social services departments, he
said. Of 293 employees, 181 had come from council area teams.

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 broke down.

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 but in many couples, the husband was the foster carer. Also
82 per cent were white.

Sellick and Connolly found that the mean
charge by agencies to local authorities was £683 per child per
week and foster carers received between £206 and £418 a

The NFCA relaunched itself under the name The
Fostering Network at the conference (News, page 7, 1 November).

National Survey of Independent Fostering
from 020 7620 6422.

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