FCC was formed after Laurie Gregory, who had worked in local authority management for many years, took early retirement and saw the opportunity to react to agencies who had been poaching local authority foster carers.

“Quite apart from the morality of it, we see no point in poaching existing foster carers,” Laurie said. “We want to add to the total number and give more children the chance of family life. I instinctively did not wish to start a ‘for profit’ company and after meetings with my Chamber of Commerce and invaluable advice from Co-operatives UK, I chose the model of multi-stakeholder and common ownership and registered the company. We have grown slowly by bringing new people to fostering.”

Now with 55 full members (the staff and the three non-executive directors) – who elect the board – and 251 associate members (the foster carers), FCC is a co-operative company limited by guarantee, which strives to provide a range of excellent foster placements for children accommodated by local authorities and a quality support service to carers.

Registered with Ofsted in England and a separate inspectorate in Wales, FCC already works with 50 local authorities and plans to continue its steady growth into Scotland, London, the South East and Northern Ireland.

FCC is now an established organisation that involves all its members – foster carers, social workers and other staff – in the running of the co-operative. Staff and users are always consulted about processes and FCC operates eight support groups for foster carers and staff.

FCC operates an ethical model with clear values which delivers integrity, commitment through common ownership and a democratic ethos. The co-operative culture underlines and reinforces shared objectives and teamwork which reflects in recruiting foster carers by recommendation. FCC benefits from a proven not-for-profit model, based on a co-operative structure that enables formal partnership with clear established governance.

This story is adapted from Co-operatives UK Case Studies: https://www.uk.coop/womenschallenge/casestudies/foster-care-co-operative