There are two key types of fostering services which provide family-based support to Looked After Children. Local Authorities (or LAs) are usually the local councils in a region or area, offering publicly funded fostering provision. Local authorities are responsible (in law) for the safeguarding of all children in the foster care system and manage their placement in fostering homes.
But demand for safe, supportive foster homes often outstrips supply, and this is where Independent Fostering Agencies (or IFAs) come in. IFAs support local authorities to offer an increased choice of foster homes for children and young people, providing greater capacity for foster care as the demand continues to grow. They also operate independently, working either on a for-profit or not-for-profit basis. For-profit IFAs are set up to return a profit on their activity, meaning that in turn, some of the profits made by the organisation can be shared amongst directors and shareholders.
Not-for-profit IFAs, which include charities, seek to redistribute all of the profit they make back into the organisation, directing it back into the care of children and young people. Typically, not-for-profit organisations have custodians who ensure that any profit that is made by the organisation is redistributed back into the care of the young people.
For us, running an ethical business is about doing the right thing. We believe in being transparent, fair, and honest. While some fostering agencies do look to make a profit from the care of young people, our choice not to do so reflects our position as a truly child-centred organisation.
We also believe that the warmth and kindness of foster carers, in welcoming a child or young person into their home, is not something that should be taken for granted and we actively seek to ensure that they are supported in all the ways that they need to provide the best possible care to the young people we support.
Team Fostering is an ethical organisation with an ethos that puts young people at the heart of everything we do. We are a social enterprise, which means we have a social purpose and social objectives, promoting diversity and high-quality care. From day one, our founding members decided that we would invest all of our resources into the best range of support and services for our children and carers. This enhances our social purpose to provide vulnerable young people with loving homes and enduring relationships. In our annual employee surveys, 100% of our staff say they are proud to work for a not-for-profit, people-focused company.
“The agency’s not-for-profit status is important to all staff, with its passionate commitment to putting children’s futures first being highly visible at all levels. Knowing that you are part of that is incredibly rewarding and is a huge reason that staff stay with the agency.” Debbie, Supervising Social Worker North East
What this means is that the financial surplus we make is reinvested back into the agency, so that we can ensure that the children and young people we support are consistently provided for by the agency. This might come in the form of activities – from our annual caravan holiday to our summer activity programme and our life-skills independence training for teenagers. It could come in the form of our 24/7 constantly staffed out-of-hours support, provided by experienced supervising social workers and senior managers. It might include one-to-one sessions with a member of our Education team, preparing a young person for exams or assessments, or even applying for college or university. It might even include our memorial funds which help us offer financial support to young people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to travel, learn to drive or purchase equipment for their hobbies or career goals. Whatever we need to provide in order to help looked-after children to have the same opportunities as other young people their age is supported by our reinvestment of funds as a not-for-profit agency.
“What really swung it for us was the not-for-profit angle. The profit that Team makes really does go back into the care of the children and you can genuinely see that it does. Everyone wants the best for the young people.” - Allan, Foster Carer
In 2018, Team Fostering decided to take steps to ensure that the agency’s valued position as a not-for profit organisation would be ‘future-proofed’. This means that no-one in the future could turn Team Fostering into a for-profit agency. Supported by a legal team, we amended the agency’s constitution to safeguard against anyone trying to access the company’s assets for personal gain, and a member agreement also protects Team Fostering into the future as an ethical, sustainable non-profit organisation.