August 2022

The Basics of Private and County Foster Family Agencies


By Norma Avila


County of Orange Social Services Agency



Prospective Orange County resource parents have the option of working with a private foster family agency (FFA) or the County of Orange Social Services Agency (SSA). Which should you choose? Understanding the differences is important in order to select the agency that is right for you and your family.





FFAs are private, licensed agencies that recruit, train, certify and support resource parents. There are two types of FFA programs — treatment foster care and nontreatment foster care. Treatment foster care focuses on children who require more intensive and specialized services due to significant emotional, behavioral or medical needs. SSA partners with FFAs for the placement of high needs children as an alternative to a short-term residential therapeutic program (formerly known as a group home). FFA resource parents typically receive additional support and services. Nontreatment foster care is for children requiring minimal intervention and specialized services. Resource parents provide the security and nurturing children need to heal from their traumatic pasts.



FFA resource parents are certified and foster under the FFAs approval. They must complete the Resource Family Approval (RFA) process — a description is provided below in the SSA section — and adhere to the rules and regulations of the FFA. This includes participating in weekly visits/contact with an FFA social worker and monthly visits/contact with the child’s SSA-assigned social worker.



FFAs provide a monthly reimbursement to all resource parents. The FFA foster care rates vary according to the child’s age and are often higher due to therapeutic services. Additional support services FFA resource parents typically receive include (services vary from agency to agency):


  • Specialized pre- and post-approval trainings
  • Medical and dental coverage
  • Weekly in-home support
  • Respite care
  • Support groups





SSA provides services designed to protect children from abuse and neglect and supports resource parents caring for the children. In addition to recruiting resource parents, SSA also conducts the RFA process in accordance with the California Department of Social Services’ regulations. The RFA process is a family-friendly, child-centered approach focusing on developing potential resource parents to foster, adopt or provide legal guardianship.



In addition to completing 12 hours of pre-approval training, resource parents will complete an application, a comprehensive background check on every person 18 and over living in the home and a home safety inspection. Everyone in the home will also be asked to participate in a family evaluation. Click here (link to: to learn about the required six steps to become a resource parent.



Similar to FFAs, SSA provides ongoing support services to all approved resource parents. Some of these services include:


  • Social worker monthly visits
  • Medical and dental coverage
  • Financial support
  • Post-approval trainings
  • Resource parent networking opportunities
  • Respite care



Whether fostering through an FFA or SSA, your decision to provide security and stability to a child in need is valued. Consider attending SSA’s Resource Family Orientation (link to: class to learn more about the Agency as well as hear from several FFA representatives. For more information, call (888) 871-5437 or email



“Private Agency vs. County DSS”