Attracting and Keeping Carers - April 2014

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I start this month’s blog the day after April Fools’ Day, so rest assured that this month’s AKC blog is wind-up free… although I'm sure some will beg to differ!

Preparations continue apace for Foster Care Fortnight™ 2014 as we source case studies for the online game and website. For your own campaigns, try to include those foster carers who really push the boundaries and challenge stereotypes. This will broaden viewers’ perception of who fosters, and help them to recognise the skills and qualities needed, which could encourage them to start their journey.

As well as our Guess who fosters case studies, we are also keen to hear from foster carers who have fostered for over 40 years as part of our 40th anniversary celebrations. If your fostering service has a foster carer who meets the criteria and would be willing to share their story with us, please put them in touch with our senior press officer Dominic at media@fostering.net

This month’s INFOCUS provides a monitoring tool to track enquirers during Foster Care Fortnight™ 2014 to enable you and the Fostering Network to specifically identify the impact of the campaign on your recruitment activity. Please do try and complete it as it will provide invaluable information to inform campaigns in years to come. Thank you.

Caring for a child of a different ethnicity

Bristol City Council’s marketing and communications officer, Saffron Smolka, has recently produced a new guide to assist foster carers who are caring for a child of a different ethnicity.

The guide covers some pertinent and challenging subjects such as racial stereotyping and maintaining cultural identity as well as day-to-day practicalities such as food, and hair and skin care.

This is a useful resource for all foster carers caring for a child of a different ethnicity to them, particularly if they have a strong cultural identity themselves.

Norfolk embark on a “transformation journey”

More than 400 years of fostering experience was celebrated at Norfolk County Council’s recent awards ceremony

Top of the bill was 71-year-old Irene Couse, who has fostered hundreds of children in over 45 years for the service. Irene shared some endearing thoughts including, “When I saw something on TV about fostering, I thought I would have a go” and ““It was quite a surprise to be recognised” exemplifying foster carers’ modesty for the work they do.

What really peaked my interest though were the aspirational comments from the authority’s director and operations manager, the latter stating, “We’re hoping this year we will start a transformational journey and it’s hoped within the next three years we will go from a ‘good’ to an ‘outstanding’ fostering service.”

At a time when some are speculating that we are yet to see the full impact of cuts and I’m hearing examples of front line staff leaving and not being replaced, Norfolk’s ambitions, recognition of the need for “working as a team” and valuing their whole team around the child is most welcome.

Challenging myths – Wolverhampton’s first same sex couple feature in film

Nobi, one half of Wolverhampton Council’s first same sex couple, features in a new film raising awareness of same sex fostering produced by the authority’s fostering service.

Right from the outset, Nobi explains some of her perceived barriers as to why she didn’t think fostering was for them – they lived in a high rise block, they were in a same sex relationship and fostering was something for people “who have a lot of money”.

However an advert on the radio prompted her and her partner to find out more and they haven’t looked back.

Foster carers like Nobi and Kelly break the mould on the perception of a ‘typical’ foster carer, and foster carers like them will be a fantastic case study to feature as part of this year’s Guess who fosters campaign for Foster Care Fortnight™.

10th birthday celebrations for Kibble’s IFS

Young people looked after by Kibble Education and Care Centre in Paisley have sent cards as a touching thank you to the support provided by the organisation’s Intensive Fostering Service (IFS) as part of its 10th anniversary celebrations.

The IFS is a specialist scheme provided by the fostering service for children with highly complex needs in the area, which makes the comments and achievements of the young people involved even more rewarding.

As seen in the Wolverhampton video above and countless other example, foster carers often start their fostering career with a view to make a difference to the lives of young people. As the Why foster carers care report shows, the majority don’t foster for the recognition. But examples like this show what an important role foster carers play in the lives of young people and is a fantastic advert to encourage more people to consider becoming a foster carer.

Naomi’s call for more foster carers and adopters

Nottinghamshire Council profile the experience of care leaver Naomi in a new drive to recruit more foster carers and adopters.

Naomi’s story is a positive one, covering all the main points; the importance of stability, the sense of belonging and the platform this has created to enable her to begin an economics degree in September.

It is though disappointing to see fostering and adoption being combined in this way as it confuses the issue when both are talked of in an interchangeable manner. There is also the implication in this article that fostering is a second best to adoption, with the ‘”urge adopters to consider taking on siblings” followed by, “I’m lucky as though even though my brother was adopted…”. If the former included, and foster carers, this would improve the content.

There is a drive for permanence through either long-term fostering or adoption (depending on what’s assessed as best for the child) but the motivations to foster and adopt are different. They can be discussed together, but for me in this instance a clear explanation of both is required. 

If you are working with external press and PR colleagues, remember you are the expert. Challenge content when it doesn’t meet your needs.

An inspiration to everyone

Every once in a while one comes across a story that literally makes one gawp with amazement (most definitely not the time for a web cam!).

Pamela’s story is a fantastic account of an inspirational foster carer, which I’d challenge anyone not to be moved by.

Yes, there is a slightly intriguing account of the boy from Morocco and, “always (having) at least seven in the house” is from a time gone by. But if your service is lucky enough to have someone like Pamela, with her wealth of experience of providing support, make sure you support them to share their story. It can of course go the other way; fostering almost 200 children is a pretty daunting proposition for a new foster carer! Pitch it right though and stories like these are a great advert for foster care.

Being part of a foster family: Edward Timpson MP

Whatever your politics, we are in a fortunate position to have a minister in post who has hands-on experience of being part of a foster family.

The Timpsons started fostering when Edward was six and as he shares in this open account, he found the initial role as a son of a foster carer quite challenging. From having to learn to "share my mum with other children", to being shunned when opening the bowling in favour of fostered triplets, the minister recognises how the experience has benefitted his professional career but more importantly, “It enriched our family. It made it greater than the sum of its parts."

Many of you I speak with include sons and daughters during skills training and at information sessions. But do make sure these case studies are shared through your website and initial communications as the impact on birth children is a critical consideration for prospective foster carers. 

IN FOCUS

Foster Care Fortnight™ annually generates substantial interest in and awareness of fostering across the UK. As a result, fostering services often see a spike in the number of enquiries received from prospective foster carers. Some will have been thinking of fostering for a while and this is the prompt to make them find out how they can start their journey, others may be new to the concept of fostering and want to find out more.

I've put together a simple monitoring spreadsheet for you to use to keep track of those enquiries specifically generated during the fortnight. This will help you evaluate the success of your campaign activity, including the number of enquiries generated, how many were suitable to proceed, the time it takes for applicants to move through the process, as well as giving you an insight on the impact on your conversion rates in the number of approvals generated.

Completed spreadsheets will also be a fantastic resource for the Fostering Network to help evaluate Guess who fosters and plan future Foster Care Fortnight™ to benefit fostering services. As the benchmark report shows, sharing performance information from fostering services across the UK provides extremely useful data to help fostering services evaluate their performance. You may already have your own monitoring system for enquiries and I would be extremely grateful to see the outcome for those generated in Foster Care Fortnight™ 2014. 

If you are able to help and would like to participate, please email me at james.foyle@fostering.net

PS

As featured in last month’s blog, Cumbria Council and the News and Stars campaign to recruit local businesses to their foster-friendly campaign continues to have an impact. Cumbria Law Centre are the latest to sign up stating, “the campaign fits in with its policy of supporting social welfare”.

Again, this is a great initiative that could be replicated across the UK to help raise awareness of fostering. Do get in touch if you’re planning a similar initiative in your area: james.foyle@fostering.net 

PPS

As digital becomes an ever greater means of communication, don’t fall foul of the legislation. 

I recently received an unsolicited text from a taxi firm in Leeds, which I’ve used on one occasion and to whom I most certainly didn’t give permission to contact me through SMS. 

Via Twitter I reminded them of the EC Directive on Privacy and Electronic communications regulations , specifically around ‘opt-out’, which they neglected to include in their message.

So if you do decide to send SMS to individuals who have given permission to be contacted via mobile, do allow them to reply ‘STOP’ to indicate they no longer wish to be contacted.