Social care common inspection framework (SCCIF): independent fostering agencies

23. Fostering for adoption

How we inspect agencies that provide fostering for adoption services.

Registered voluntary adoption agencies (VAAs) carrying out fostering for adoption (FfA) services and seeking to approve carers as both adopters and foster carers are also required under the Care Standards Act 2000 to register as an independent fostering agency (IFA). Ofsted is required to inspect these agencies both as an IFA and as a VAA.

23.1 How we inspect VAAs and IFAs that provide FfA services

In line with our overarching strategy and principles for inspection, we try to minimise the burden of inspection for agencies. We want, to make the best use of our inspection time and resources.

For agencies that provide FfA services as their only fostering activity, we usually carry out inspections of the VAA and the IFA at the same time rather than as two separate inspection events.

The simultaneous inspections will lead to the individual inspection reports being combined into one publication. We will make judgements on the VAA using the four-point scale and covering:

  • overall experiences and progress of children, young people and adults, taking into account:

  • how well children, young people and adults are helped and protected
  • the effectiveness of leaders and managers.

The combined report will include a narrative judgement on the IFA.

For these combined inspections, inspectors follow the SCCIF guidance for VAAs and IFAs. We notify agencies that they are going to be inspected two working days before the combined inspection. We will usually give this notice on a Thursday before the fieldwork starts on the next Monday morning. The overall timeline for VAA inspections usually applies. If it is necessary (for example, because of the size of the agency), the RIM can agree to either the inspector spending additional days on site or additional inspectors being deployed on the inspection. To ensure that the selection of tracked or sampled cases are representative of the agency’s work, inspectors always track or sample some FfA cases.

Inspectors use the evaluation criteria, including specific criteria relating to FfA, to help them reach their judgments for all agencies that provide FfA services. These criteria are set out within the SCCIF guidance for IFA inspections.

Ofsted imposes a condition on the registration of an IFA whose only fostering activity is related to FfA. Agencies must apply for the condition to be lifted if they wish to expand their fostering activity.

IFAs that are not subject to the FfA condition will have a full inspection scheduled as an independent event.

We always report our findings on the quality of FfA arrangements, either as a narrative judgement for the IFA as part of a combined report, or in the separate inspection report for IFAs that carry out a wider range of fostering activities. Our ability to carry out combined inspections of VAAs and IFAs that provide FfA does not preclude the separate inspections of individual VAAs or IFAs if this is the most effective way of addressing matters that are only relevant to an individual VAA or IFA.

If there is a need for a monitoring visit of an IFA with a FfA condition, we will carry this out independently if there is no need to do a monitoring visit of the VAA.

If agencies have any questions about how we inspect FfA services, they should contact their allocated inspector.