ADVICE FOR CARERS
How to transfer from your current foster care agency to Lika
Are you already a foster carer but you’re unhappy with the level of support you’re getting from your agency or your local authority? Would you like to transfer to a new foster care agency but not sure that it’s possible??
Sadly, it’s a too common story: agencies taking months to arrange a meeting, not being there in times of crisis, rarely providing supervision or training, forcing carers to accept the lowest payment band no matter the task ahead of them.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Despite what you might have been told by your agency or local authority, it is possible to transfer to a new foster care agency or a different Local Authority.
We receive many enquiries from people who can’t make a decision as to whether they should choose a Local Authority or Independent Foster Agency (IFA). There is also a wide choice of Independent agencies so carers transferring find it difficult to decide… which one?
Many people enquiring to become foster carers believe that their Local Authority is the best choice as they are the service who places the children which would mean more choice in terms of matching. Whilst this is true, the choice and matching of children is only one part of a bigger process important to make the fostering role a successful one. There is also an understanding of the management and leadership style of the agency. How does this influences the way staff and foster carers are supported? and what training snd skills development you will receive to ensure you are equipped with the right tools to become a successful foster carer?
At Lika we always advise applicants who are making this choice to read the most recent Ofsted inspection report of the agencies they are looking at. Ofsted is an independent agency who assess the standards of each of the processes described. This is the best way to make sense of how services are run and how you will be supported. We also advise applicants to not stop there. Particularly when choosing an independent agency. There are so many to choose from. They may all have good Ofsted reports, so make sure you meet staff, get a feel of the vibe and energy they bring and how they welcome you as a new enquirer alongside how helpful they are in answering your questions. After meeting a few you will normally know the one that stands out and feels like the best fit for you.
Once you have made your decision then as a carer transferring you hand the reigns over to the agency to get the transfer process started. There is a very helpful document created by the Fostering Network which clearly sets out how this transfer process should work. It is also very clear about the expectations that if you have a child in placement then they should not be affected by the transfer and if they are doing well in your care the placement should not be disrupted. However, this is also not your responsibility to negotiate. This is for the agency and Local Authority to sort and ensure you and the child placed are not impacted.
To help explain what that experience is like, and how simple it is, we’ve spoken to Josie — a carer with 18 years’ experience who recently changed from a Local Authority to Lika.
This is Josie’s story.
Josie first became a foster carer in 2001, at the age of 23. As a Salvation Army youth worker she’d met a 17-year-old who wasn’t entitled to foster support, and had taken him in. Seven months later, when the young man’s sister no longer qualified for support, she took her in, too – all with the help of the Salvation Army.
The experience convinced her that fostering was a great way to truly make a difference in a young person’s life, so in 2003 she applied to become a foster carer with her local council. She was with them right up until early 2019. In that time she has fostered 15 young people.
“The supervision I got was dreadful,” she said. “I worked for the local authority; I knew the local authority well. There were individual people who were personally very nice people, who often really did care, but they were inept at their job and there was a complete lack of leadership and direction, lots of delays, and it was detrimental to my health and wellbeing.”
Josie said placement breakdowns were very common among her foster caring friends.
“They would have more foster carers leave each year than they would recruit, because the support was so bad,” she said. “They owed me money. I was always chasing basic things. It just made me unwell. My energy was going into fighting the system and not supporting my child, so making sure my child got what she needed meant I didn’t get what I needed.
“There were only a couple of supervisions, and they were not really supervisions – they weren’t organised; they weren’t planned.
“I was being forced to do training that had nothing to do with what I needed, just so they could say I had done my 30 hours’ training.
“I couldn’t be a part of that life anymore.”
Josie had finally reached a point where things needed to change. She was caring for a child with particular needs and was getting no support – everything her social worker was supposed to do, Josie had to do herself.
“The only options I had were to leave and go with her, or to stop fostering her,” she said.
Around this time Josie discovered Lika online and called to talk to someone.
“Kate-Marie came around pretty much straightaway — either the same week or the next week,” Josie said.
“I was looking for an agency that had holistic caring already but would also hold the local authority to account. From the very beginning it was a completely different experience.”
Josie said foster carers should remember that it is up to them to decide which agency they foster with.
“You make the decision on who you want to go with — that’s your prerogative as a foster carer, no matter what the local authority tells you!” she said.
“I told my local authority and Lika set up a protocol meeting with them. It took longer than it needed to because the local authority was not responsive. As the foster carer, you’re not a part of that process.
Let’s take a deep dive for a minute into the nuts and bolts of transferring from your old foster care agency to a new one.
The first thing to remember, if you already have a child in your care whom you’d like to take with you, is this guiding principle from The Fostering Network:
‘…all foster carers have the right to freedom of movement between fostering services.’
Here’s the process you’ll go through, if you want to transfer to a new foster agency when you have a child in placement:
- You have to give written notice of your intention to move to both your current agency and the local authority
- The local authority must then inform the child’s IRO of your intention to transfer and within 28 days must hold a meeting with:
- The placing authority/authorities
- The current service
- The recruiting service
- The foster carer(s).
- The meeting will consider:
- Whether it is in the best interests to move the child (based on the latest case review)
- The effect of any possible move on the child (including changes in any support relationships)
- The support needs of the child and the carer and how they will be met by the new service
- The arrangements for the transfer
- The views of the child, parent and any other interested parties
- If the transfer of the placement is not approved, then the arrangements for an alternative placement will be discussed
- A timetable from the new agency on the approval of the foster carer, and any expectations for training, etc.
- The panel will make a recommendation within eight months of receiving your application
- Once the recommendation is made and the new agency indicates it is ready to approve you as a foster carer, you can submit your resignation to your old agency giving 28 days’ notice. After your notice period, you will be switched across to you new agency.
For a more detailed breakdown, see The Fostering Network’s full Transfer of Foster Carers Protocol here.
If you don’t have a child in placement, you can still transfer to a new agency. In fact, it’s quite a lot easier to do so. Here’s what it looks like:
- Inform your current service in writing of your intention to leave
- Your new agency will begin their assessment process
- Once your assessment is complete and you’re ready to go to the panel stage of the process for approval, formally resign in writing from your existing agency. You might want to send this by recorded delivery or even by hand!
- Your resignation will take effect after 28 days
- Once your resignation has taken effect, your new agency can approve you. (Under law you can only be approved by one agency at a time).
After 18 years as a carer and 16 with the same service, Josie said transferring to a new foster care agency had made all the difference.
“I feel less anxious,” she said. “I feel like someone has got my back. I know it shouldn’t be about that, but it is about that.”
What’s her advice to foster carers thinking about a move?
“If you are foster carer and you’re doing everything yourself, including the things your agency is supposed to do, you will burn out. You’ll either not do what you do as well as you could, or you’ll start to get angry towards your social worker or your child’s social worker, which is not helpful.
“It’s not supposed to be like that. It can be great. Choose an agency that is going to actually support you. Definitely glad I made the move.
“Fostering for me is a gift that you give, and the gift that you give should be given freely. It shouldn’t be given like you’re a martyr or you’re burnt out or you’ve become a victim. You need to have joy in what you’re doing and you’re more likely to have joy if you’re properly resourced.
“Being properly resourced is about being properly supervised, properly trained — being able to feel safe to learn, safe for constructive criticism, being with people like you (in terms of other foster carers), being with people who understand the things you’ve overcome and reminding yourself of those things.
“It doesn’t matter what you do — your job, your relationship — you flourish more if it’s healthy. If you’re not in a healthy situation, you need to really look at why that is.
“Children present with what they present with for a million and one reasons, just because they’re children or because they’ve had a really tough time. They are not the issue.
“The question I would ask yourself is ‘what do I need to flourish?’ And if you’re not getting that, you are worth something more — not just your child but you as well — and you deserve to have that.
“So don’t stay and suffer in silence. Make a different choice. Make a choice where you choose yourself and you’re kind to yourself in that choice.”
If you’re in south or east London and you’re interested in becoming a foster carer, give the helpful team at Lika a call on 020 8667 2111. We’re here to answer all your questions.
We’re in the London boroughs of Croydon, Sutton, Bromley, Merton, Lambeth, Westminster, Wandsworth, Lewisham, Southwark, Islington, Camden, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Ilford, City of London, Haringey, Newham, Redbridge, Barking and Dagenham, Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea.