Attitudes within the wider child placement public sector towards the place of independent fostering agencies remain largely negative, especially when expressed by local authority senior managers. Clive Sellick considers these alongside some other views that have emerged from the findings of relevant research. He goes on to examine the mission statements of 55 independent fostering agencies included in a recent national survey of the services, costs, staff, foster carers and children and young people in placement in these agencies. The author has undertaken a qualitative analysis of these statements in order to identify the aims and principles that underpin agency practice. Three main themes emerge relating to promoting children's welfare, providing a range of services for children and carers and creating a competent and available foster carer workforce. These are considered alongside the profiles of ten agencies to illustrate the breadth of provision available to local authorities. The author concludes by suggesting that information about the purpose and provision of independent fostering is likely to lead to a more balanced view and use of this sector.