Welcome to the new format for Attracting and Keeping Carers!
This new format is designed to be more interactive and accessible than before, providing a blend of news and case studies and giving you the opportunity to provide comments on the articles posted. We're also including a new regular slot, hosting an online discussion on the topics covered in In Focus and Top Tips.
This month, we're looking at Staffordshire's Resilience Foster Care scheme and things to consider when producing your marketing campaigns. We'll be hosting the online discussion from 2.00 to 4.00pm on Thursday 25 April so do join in.
Foster Care Fortnight – get in the frame update
Plans for this year’s Foster Care Fortnight are gathering pace.
The Fostering Network’s have been out and about, taking pictures of celebrities in the frame, as well as snapping attendees in the frame at our Foster Care Fortnight workshops. We are also pleased to hear that fostering services across the country are already taking photos of their team managers, councillors, existing and prospective foster carers in their frames in readiness for the campaign. Don’t forget to send your photos in to email@example.com to be part of the online gallery.
We are also on the hunt for Britain’s oldest, youngest and longest serving foster carers as part of our media activity. If you have potential candidates for these, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on get in the frame, go to www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/get-involved/championing-fostering/foster-care-fortnight or email email@example.com
Book of poems and stories by children in care goes on sale
Thirty eight of North Yorkshire’s looked-after children and young people, most of whom are fostered, became published writers this month as a collection of their poems and short stories went on sale to the public.
‘Every Picture Tells a Story’ brings together work from children aged six to16, including care leavers. Their writing covers everything from family to love, from Olympic dreams to royalty and their own aspirations for the future.
Celebrated playwright Sir Alan Ayckbourn and Olympic silver medallist Nicola Wilson have both written their own pieces for the book to show their support.
"I’m honoured to be associated with this project,” said Sir Alan. “Creative writing is for me the act of sharing your private innermost self in public. Given the hardships that some of these kids have had to endure, I feel all the more privileged that they have allowed me a glimpse of their dreams. I hope others can see the potential in these talented children."
The writing is illustrated by the children’s own drawings and paintings as well as those contributed by professional and amateur artists from North Yorkshire and beyond.
New leaflet for children who foster, by children who foster
Gloucestershire County Council has launched a new leaflet for birth children of potential foster carers to let them know what it is like to be in a family who foster.
The leaflet was put together by the authority’s children who foster K4K group using their own creative drawings, and features their comments about their thoughts on fostering. The K4K group was set up nine years ago by Gloucestershire as a support group for birth children of foster carers and meets every school holiday.
The impact on existing family members is often a top consideration when prospective foster carers are thinking about becoming a fostering family. As well as providing material for the adults, it’s also important, like Gloucestershire CC have done, not to forget the birth children and provide suitable information for them as well.
Resilience foster care
Identifying your target audience is at the heart of planning any effective marketing campaign. But knowing how to package and deliver the campaign will make or break it.
The Fostering Network has compiled research on the motivations to foster, which suggests the type of people that come forward and their reasons for doing so. The report found that a number of foster carers are from an education, health or Early Years background. Their reasons for coming forward include primarily an opportunity for children to be part of the family (86 per cent) and a good thing for them or their family to do (77 per cent).
Armed with this information, and that collected internally and from other sources, fostering services have developed recruitment campaigns to attract new foster carers. And they’ve been rather good at it, consistently replacing the 13 per cent of foster carers who leave the service each year.
However, we frequently hear that fostering services are struggling to recruit for certain groups including siblings and teenagers. How can fostering services attract, and crucially retain, foster carers for these children?
Staffordshire County Council has established the Resilience Foster Care Scheme to find foster carers who have the extra skills and experience to support some of the authority’s most troubled teenagers.
The campaign, which has been running for over five years, specifically targets those from the community – including police officers, prison officers, residential care home workers or the voluntary sector – who have the ability to diffuse emotionally charged situations as well as the other skills, experience and commitment needed.
Of course, not all of these people will want, or will be suitable, to become foster carers and resilience is but one of a number of qualities a good foster carer possesses. But seeking groups from society with transferable skills to foster is a positive step. So far Staffordshire CC has managed to recruit eight resilient foster carers, and of the seven children placed with them, all have been in place for at least a year. The scheme has contributed significantly, with two children moving from special needs education into mainstream school where they gained GCSEs before going on to apprenticeship schemes, and another winning an award for their volunteering.
There are many other examples where fostering services have extended existing campaigns to engage particular local groups, including the church and local military bases. However Staffordshire’s bespoke branded campaign appears to have spiked the interest, including a recent interview on BBC Radio Five Live. The service is well on its way to recruiting their target of a further eight resilience foster carers over the next three years.
What are your views on bespoke campaigns for particular audiences? Is it a resource issue? Are there things the Fostering Network could be doing to support you?
Seven top tips to producing a foster care recruitment campaign
1. What do you want to achieve?
Establish how many foster carers you need and for what types of foster care in order to find homes for all the children who need them. This can be derived from your recruitment strategy and your looked-after children needs analysis*. Setting a target is an important component as it will help you evaluate the success of your campaign, as well as being a clear message to all within your fostering service as to what you are aiming to achieve.
It is also prudent to establish the risks of not achieving the target, including the impact it will have on your service.
*If you need assistance developing either of these, email firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Research your target audience
What does a prospective foster carer look like? Probably a lot like your existing foster carers! Use them as a vital tool to understand what motivated them to come forward and foster, through surveys, focus groups and one-to-ones. As well as establishing what motivated them to foster, also ask what images and messages would lead them to make an enquiry, and those which would not appeal.
When broadening reach, ask your foster carers to in turn, ask their friends, neighbours and wider community what messages and imagery would encourage them to make an enquiry – a fresh perspective from a similar demographic.
If like Staffordshire’s resilience scheme you are targeting a new, specific demographic, maybe beyond your pool of existing foster carers, consider creating a focus group to see what would motivate them.
3. Develop your campaign
Your research should point to common themes, for example the desire to work with children, providing the opportunity for a child to be part of the family, a safe stable and loving environment to grow up in and making a difference to the life of a fostered child. From these, develop a message that will engage your target audience and encourage them to find out more.
Make sure the imagery reflects the groups of people you want to come forward, and if the budget permits, take your own photographs so the viewer can make the connection with their local area.
On all campaign material, be sure to include a clear call to action – either calling or texting your service, or a website address with more information.
4. Is your website ready?
Your website is one of your primary resources to deliver your campaign and provide sufficient information for prospective foster carers to make an informed decision to make an enquiry.
The key word here is sufficient – it is important to strike a balance between providing enough information to an audience that for many will be their first insight into fostering, but without bombarding them with too much. Aim for quality enquiries over quantity.
5. Timing is everything
With everything in place and ready to go, launching your foster carer recruitment campaign at in the week before Christmas may not be the best idea…
Your research with existing foster carers should provide the information as to when they first considered becoming foster carers. Foster care recruitment, unlike say university applications, is a year round activity and as such, isn’t affected too greatly by seasonal trends. However, there are times of the year that your service may like to tap into. January for example provides an opportunity for a ‘new year, new career’ type campaign and September is an opportunity to target the ‘empty nesters’, to continue the university analogy. And of course, the Fostering Network’s Foster Care Fortnight campaign provides a great opportunity to raise awareness locally when the national profile of fostering is high.
When timings are confirmed, it’s critical to make sure everyone in the team is on board. Do all staff know when the campaign’s going live? Are there sufficient resources in place to take calls, issue information packs and plan initial visits? From the top down, everyone in the team is responsible.
6. Get your message out there
Now you know what you want to say and when to say it, what channels will you use to get your message out there?
Again, what does your research tell you as to where your foster carers find out about your service?
Involve your communications and media teams to help pitch stories to your local press and secure space in relevant magazines and trade press. Establish whether you can have a presence at any local community events such as fetes and open days, crucially factoring in the resource you have available.
Online, social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are all platforms to disseminate your message. If you’re new to this area, see our Getting Started in Social Media guide for more information.
It takes time to perfect your message in the right place to engage your prospective foster carers. Learn from your previous activities, drawing in expertise and experience from other members of the team.
Learn as you go, monitoring at key points throughout the campaign’s life cycle to establish progress against the target and the success of the chosen campaign channels and materials.
At the end of the campaign, establish whether you achieved or exceeded the target you set. Was the target realistic? Which channels worked well and which didn’t perform? Be sure to record and retain this information and feed it into your next planning cycle.
In other news…
Bedroom tax partial U-turn
Following significant campaigning efforts from the Fostering Network and our members, the Government has reconsidered proposals for the calculation of housing benefit that will have a significant impact on foster carers across the UK. Foster carers will now be allowed one “spare” room when occupancy is being assessed. The campaign continues for those with more than one room for a fostered child.
You can read the full story at http://www.fostering.net/news/2013/bedroom-tax-campaign-continues
Staying safe in a digital world
The Fostering Network Wales is holding a focus group for foster carers to look at the challenges they face in helping children and young people lead normal lives while keeping them as safe as possible in an increasingly digital world.
To read the full story and hear how this will benefit fostering families go to http://www.fostering.net/news/2013/digital-fostering-focus-group-in-wales
Record numbers of children in care in Scotland
Recent figures released by the Scottish Government confirm there are now record numbers of children in foster care in the country. Read the full story at http://www.fostering.net/news/2013/number-fostered-children-in-scotland-hits-record-high