What’s the Difference between Local Authorities (LA) and Independent Fostering Agencies (IFA)?

Difference between Local Authorities (LA) and Independent Fostering Agencies (IFA)?

If you are already working as a foster care provider, then you probably have a decent idea about the differences between Local Authorities (LA) and Independent Fostering Agencies (IFA). In case you are still new to the work, or if you are only considering your options, then this post will help you get acquainted with the two types of fostering authorities in the UK.

The Foster Care System: LA and IFA

Aspiring foster carers have the option to apply to, and upon approval, be registered with either a local authority (LA) for foster care, or an independent fostering agency (IFA). The local authorities are just what their name suggests. They are government bodies in charge of governing the local foster care system, child protection system, and adoption system within their assigned UK jurisdiction.

The LA used to be the only authority in the UK, as far as child protection, foster care, and adoption were concerned, which is also the reason why IFAs came into existence. As the number of children in foster care grew over the years, it became too much for the local authorities to handle all their multifaceted responsibilities without help. Thus, the private fostering organizations and charities that we know today as independent fostering agencies came to be.

IFAs are independent fostering agencies, and as you might imagine, they are private organizations with a fostering license and approval from the local authorities to work independently (up to an extent). IFAs need approval from their respective local fostering authorities before a child can be placed into the care of a foster care provider registered with that IFA. The LA is also held legally responsible for each approval and denial.

Is there an Advantage to Registering with One Over the Other?

The goal for both types of fostering organizations is the same, which is to ensure the welfare of children in foster care. Consequently, the LA and the IFAs work in close association with each other. From the foster care provider’s perspective though, independent agencies do have a few advantages over their government counterparts.

For example, if you sign up with an IFA like the FosterPlus Fostering Agency, you can expect a higher fostering allowance than what might be offered by the local authorities for similar work. Other than that, independent fostering agencies offer significantly better training to their registered foster carers, so that they are fully prepared to handle the responsibilities that will come their way.

Main Differences Between the LA and the IFA

Aside from the fact that local authorities are government organizations, while independent fostering agencies are private by default, there are a few other differences between the two as well. Let’s shortlist them next for easier understanding.

  • Local authorities are in charge of fostering, child protection, and adoption within their jurisdiction.
  • IFAs only handle responsibilities related to the foster care system.
  • Local authorities generally work with foster children in the younger age brackets and not as much with older teens.
  • Independent fostering agencies work with foster children across all age groups, including older teens until they become 18.

It would be unfair to state that one is better than the other, especially without knowing which two are being compared specifically. Nevertheless, the decline in fostering applications sent to local authorities, in tandem with the increase in IFA applications recently, is indicative of a preference towards the latter.