We are saddened when we hear the stories of foster carers feeling unhappy about the agency they have chosen to foster with. When first looking in to fostering, most enquirers are understandably unaware of what to expect and the specific questions to ask. It is an area of unfamiliarity and unless enquirers know other people who are fostering, they have little personal experience to draw upon.
Searching for a foster agency in the first instance can be challenging as there are so many to choose from. Once fostering, foster carers understand more about the sector, what should be available to them and the levels of support they may need. It was for this reason that we created our To The Moon and Back free downloadable article “What To Look For in a Fostering Service” to help demystify the process.
I read a recent article published on LinkedIn, written by a professional who supports foster agencies to improve their foster carer retention. In the article he depicted the levels of unhappiness of foster carers and that he felt some foster carers had felt misled by their foster agency. They felt that when they had first enquired, they were given unrealistic expectations about what they could expect once approved and sadly once they had children living with them, they didn’t have the levels of support or resources that they had been led to believe would be available to them. We have always believed that honesty was the best policy when recruiting new foster carers. It is unacceptable to encourage potential foster carers to sign up for something without full honest information. We share all relevant information so that applicants can make a fully informed decision about whether fostering is right for them. We are very proud of feedback from those who foster with us. Our recent Ofsted inspection report highlights that everything we promised to foster carers was delivered.
Worryingly , I have heard other comments that relate to foster carers who, although feeling unhappy with their agency, feel unable to move to another fostering agency, as they are concerned that the foster children they have living with them, may be removed from them if they choose to leave the agency. This goes against the transferring protocol that most fostering services have signed up to. This sets a clear principle that “Foster carers have the right to freedom of movement between fostering services.”
We are aware that some foster carers choose to stay, despite feeling unhappy, because they cannot face having to be assessed a second time. Whilst the assessment when transferring is very thorough it doesn’t have to take as long as the original assessment, as so much of the information is already available. We are required to identify with foster carers what they have learnt, how they have supported young people and what they, as a family need. We work with foster carers on collating and making sense of this for the future of their fostering career. This information provides a new assessment that identifies more clearly your fostering skills and proven track record and this goes to the independent fostering panel. We understand however, that it is important to provide a level of extra support for a transferring carer during this process because once they have notified their agency of their intention to transfer they may feel that they are in no-man’s-land.
Why Foster Carers consider Transferring to another agency
- They are dissatisfied with the relationship they have with their agency, maybe as a result of feeling unsupported, or as a result of a particular incident or worker.
- They feel they are not been given the development they feel they should be getting.
- The fostering agency has been taken over by another organisation and the culture they were looking for has subsequently changed as a result.
- The foster carers are not being offered the young people that they feel they can care for
- The allowance is insufficient
When a foster carer feels unhappy, they are likely to feel undervalued and as a result whilst still giving their best to the children they care for, there is likely to be some impact in the foster carers wellbeing which will eventually affect the children, no matter how hard the foster carers try to hide it. We truly believe that happy and successful foster carer lead to a better experience for young people.
Our Transferring way
If you are feeling unhappy with the agency you are currently fostering with and considering whether a transfer is going to be better for you, what should you do?
Once you feel that you have exhausted all avenues available to you in order to remedy any issues that you are unhappy about, there is probably no other choice available to you, other than finding an alternative fostering agency. Obviously no one wants to see foster carers leave their agency, but certainly no one wants to see foster carers leave fostering all together. We feel that transferring is an opportunity for you to get what you feel is going to enable you to be more successful in your role.
Transferring to another fostering agency involves a piece of work which can be undertaken, in our case, relatively quickly, it can be undertaken in as little as 6 weeks. There are formal processes that are required to be undertaken and the processes follow a formal Transfer Protocol. https://www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/policy-practice/recruitment-and-retention/transfer-protocols
We recommend that you consider the kind of relationship you are looking for and how you feel you can be best supported to be successful in your role. Happy supported foster carer’s leads to a greater likelihood of happy supported young people, able to achieve their true potential.
At some point you will need to speak to someone about your thoughts regarding transfer to another agency. The conversation should always be totally confidential and you should feel satisfied that there is no commitment at this stage, it is purely a fact finding exercise.
What actually happens if you decide you want to transfer to another agency and you have a child or young person already placed with you?
As a foster carer thinking of transferring, you will have specific reasons for this and will have (as suggested above) researched other agencies and what they can offer you.
Once you have decided on an agency that you feel will be able to offer you what you are looking for, in order for this transfer process to commence you are required to formally give notice of your intention to transfer to, your existing agency and the placing authorities of the children you are caring for. If you do not have children in placement you are required to give notice of your intention to transfer just to your current fostering agency.
What happens after you have given notice of your intention to transfer?
Your current fostering agency will formally acknowledge your notice of intent to transfer. The agency you are intending to transfer to, will arrange for your current agency to have authorisation to look through your fostering file. This is a file which contains information about your fostering career. This can only be done with explicit consent from you. This is an important part of the initial transfer assessment process for the new agency to start “The getting to know you” process and to confirm that there are no reasons why you should be unable to continue fostering.
Once this has been done and the new agency you have chosen to transfer to is satisfied that you are able to continue fostering, they will engage with everyone involved in the care of the children you are looking after, in order to arrange a meeting, sometimes called a protocol meeting.
What happens once the new agency is satisfied you can be considered to transfer to them?
If transferring to us, we will want to ensure that you fully understand the process and will meet with you formally to share the transfer process and the timescale for each part of the process. In the same way that when you first decided you wanted to foster, we are required to undertake a formal assessment of you and once complete, the assessment is shared with the agency independent panel and you will be required to attend panel. Formal checks will be undertaken on your behalf, including references. This is regulatory requirement for transfer, however we find that this is much shorter than your original assessment, because so much is already documented about you.
Will you be required to undertake any training before transfer to The Moon and Back.
Most fostering agencies suggest that skills to foster is not required for transferring foster carers as they have usually done it before. We do not believe that you should complete the full course as a formality, but we will explain areas of specific training that we cover as part of the course and ask if you would like to undertake any part of it. You will be invited to a half day workshop which we find, new transferring foster carers coming to us find very informative and enables you to refresh your general fostering knowledge and understand what is available to you at our agency. We consider this as an agency induction day for you.
You will be required to be compliant in all mandatory training as set out in fostering legislation. This should be discussed as part of the transferring assessment process to be presented at Panel. It is a simple process to get fully up to date if for any reason you have fallen behind on your mandatory training.
What does a Protocol Meeting actually involve and will you be included in this?
Once you have served notice of your intent to transfer, a protocol meeting date will be set. The meeting can be convened by the placing authority/authorities – this may include commissioning/contracting officers as well as the children’s social worker, representation from your current agency, representation from us as the fostering agency you are choosing to transfer to and of course yourselves.
Where there is more than one placing authority responsible for the children in your care, the authority that has had children placed for the longest period with the foster carer will be generally be considered the ‘lead’ authority, but this is only done by agreement.
Why is a protocol meeting needed?
The meeting is usually led by the placing authority for the children in your care. The aim of the meeting is to determine that the transfer you are intending to make will be in the best interest of the children in your care. The local authority acting as the corporate parent for the child in your care must be satisfied that the welfare of the child can be continued or improved as a result of the switch to a different fostering agency and that the agency you are choosing to go to, can continue to provide the level of support required for you to continue to be successful as a foster carer.
The meeting will include discussion about fees, this is to ensure that the current fee situation can be met as a basic, but by this point you will have had meaningful conversations with your transferring agency of choice and be reassured that this will be ok.
Are you expected to present all of this information at the meeting?
You will not be expected to bring or present this information. The professionals in the meeting are required to prepare for aspects of the meeting agenda. In the event that lots of information is required, we will always consult you, during its preparation, so that it is accurate. We prepare transferring carers in advance of any protocol meeting, so that you are fully informed of what is likely to be discussed so that you can feel less anxious and can continue to focus on the children in your care and your family during the transferring process.
What happens next
After the protocol meeting discussed above, the local authority will make their “in principle” decision about whether the transfer can go ahead. It is in principle because the final decision about the transfer, once the local authority is in agreement, lies with the agency where you are transferring to. Just as when you first became a foster carer, the transfer assessment has to go through the agency’s independent panel process. Once panel are happy to recommend approval, the final decision will go to the Agency Decision Maker after the Panel meeting.
Are you free to transfer once the Agency Decision Maker has said yes to approval?
At the point that our Agency Decision Maker has approved you to transfer to our agency, you are then required to give 28 days’ formal notice of your intention to leave your current agency. This is a formal contractual process and formally states your date of leaving one agency and joining ours.
Foster carers have the right to move to another foster agency at any time. The transfer protocol is there for a reason and is embraced by local authorities and IFA’s
When we are approached by foster carers who are considering transferring, we are very respectful that they will have taken a long time to consider the implications before getting in touch. We want them to make the right decision.
As far as we are concerned transferring can be straightforward and can happen quite quickly once you have informed your agency that you are looking to transfer. With us you do not have to be involved in conversations with your agency about the process as that is what we do on your behalf in order to support you in the process. We belief once you have made the decision to transfer, It is in the best interests of everyone that the process is quick and smooth.
When a foster carer chooses to foster with, us we feel very special. We appreciate that foster carers have a choice and that they have a right to exercise it. We work very hard to ensure that foster carers never want to leave us, we work in an individualised way to enable foster carers to succeed.
If you are considering transferring, you can talk to us in complete confidence by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Or call us for an informal friendly and confidential chat 01223 800 420