As the need for foster placements increases, the amount of independent fostering agencies has grown in response. However, as with all new start-ups, these businesses face challenges which must be addressed to prevent any impact on both foster carers and ultimately the children.
The challenges faced
Typically a new independent fostering agency may face certain challenges, which could include the following:
Inexperienced team members
New businesses do not necessarily have a large amount of cash at the beginning, which can have a knock-on effect on the recruitment of staff. Newly qualified or inexperienced staff are usually more cost-effective, but this often means learning on the job. While new skills become perfected, issues caused by lack of knowledge may arise.
Lack of resources
When a business is in the early stages, it is unlikely to have as many resources as a bigger and more established agency. These resources could include access to training, relationships with external partners, varied skillsets and physical resources (such as office space and technology). A lack of resources may result in tasks being completed less efficiently.
Lack of time
Small start-ups usually rely on a small staff who has to multi-task. Not only does this stretch resources and skills, but it generally puts extra pressure on the time available to the team members. This lack of time can result in tasks and projects not being completed or poorly executed.
Lack of authority
New agencies may struggle initially to attract new foster carers due to their lack of authority within the arena. With no history it is likely they will not have access to testimonials or past performances to commend them to potential carers.
The possible impact
If any of these issues should arise in a new agency, there is likely to be an impact on the foster carers. The result could manifest itself in several areas:
- Quality of support to foster carers
- Delays in appropriate placements being made
- Insufficient training opportunities
The overall impact may result in a lack of suitable foster carers and a poorer service, which could ultimately affect the welfare of foster children.
How to overcome these challenges
These challenges need not be obstacles to progression. With a strong and experienced leader in charge new fostering agencies have every opportunity to succeed and offer an excellent service to their clients, while protecting the welfare of the children in their care. By always offering an impeccable service, they will soon build up a good reputation.
By starting small and working with a select team the personal service new agencies offers can go a long way to building relationships and strong bonds with the community and clients. If the fostering agency has a good business plan in place, and can manage their resources, then these issues need never be faced.
Although new fostering agencies do face a multitude of challenges, with a strong leader these can all be overcome in time. Working with a new agency can, however, have the benefit of a more personal touch, which can have a major impact to the development of new foster carers and their foster children. As with all new start-ups, careful planning and management is the key to long term success.