Attracting and Keeping Carers - December 2013

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Thank you again to everyone who attended our transforming foster carer recruitment event this month. The event was a sell out and apologies to those people who were unable to secure a place. The national local authority benchmark and Why foster carers care report, containing the Values Modes survey findings which were launched at the event, can be downloaded from the recruitment and retention section on our website.

As the attention for many turns to the upcoming festivities, December is a chance for celebration and reflection on 2013 and looking ahead to next year and beyond.

This month’s IN FOCUS takes a look at needs analysis, and will be the topic of discussion in the online chat on Thursday 19 December, 2.00-4.00pm. 

Foster Care Fortnight workshops

The dates for the Foster Care Fortnight workshops have been agreed as follows:

  • Wednesday 29 January: NCVO, London
  • Thursday 6 February: The Carriageworks, Leeds
  • Tuesday 11 February: The Studio, Birmingham

All workshops are priced at £40 +VAT if you pay by credit card, £60 +VAT if you request an invoice. To book your place, or for more information please go to the event page for the Foster Care Fortnight workshops.

Council tax exemption passed

As covered in the last blog, Camden Council proposed council tax relief for their in house foster carers, a motion that has now been passed. 
From 1 April 2014 foster carers for Camden Council will be given exemption from the council tax charge, a move which is the first of its kind and designed to, “…recognise their achievements and say a big thank you…” and “We hope that this will encourage more people to become foster carers.”

Have other local authority fostering services considered this? Please comment below or email me your thoughts on this significant move.

Plymouth Pride

Plymouth Council’s fostering service has reasons to be cheerful following their foster carers’ being awarded the Pride of Plymouth award this month.
Foster carers Pam and Glynn Dale were recognised for their commitment to fostering over the past seven years. 

Fostering services often host celebration events for their foster carers, but this is a nice way to recognise the work they do on a wider level and raise the profile of fostering. Some may find the spotlight a little daunting, but as our values work has shown, for others it will be the recognition they’re seeking.

Westminster to Hollywood via foster care

Discounting some of the journalist's disappointing choices of phrasing in this article - “after being taken away from her mother by social services.” stands out in particular and the young woman’s quote “I was portrayed as the most difficult child in Westminster, I was told that by social services.” doesn’t reflect well - the sentiment is a very positive story of the benefits of kinship care and how the local authority’s intervention provided a platform for her to succeed.

Keeping in touch with your care leavers and providing case studies of their successes is a powerful message to the impact that foster carers can make and encourage more people who want to make a difference to come forward. 

Trafford heroes

As I’ve discussed here before, the potential impact on sons and daughters is often a barrier to many people considering becoming a foster carer. Our Sons and Daughters campaign is an opportunity to celebrate their involvement, as Trafford have done.

The Fostering Network champions foster carers' role as a fellow professional in the team around the child, and through relatively recent improvements and expectations around delegated authority, this culture is being embedded across many more fostering services. But the role of foster carers' sons and daughters is often not fully explored. Where sons and daughters are prepared and willing to do so, do fostering services invite them to information evenings to provide prospective foster carers with a first person insight into how being part of a fostering family has affected them? Let me know!

Children First

A good bit of innovation here from Children First Fostering Agency, providing a series of videos to their local online newspaper to give a different perspective to a standard press release.

(hit refresh F5 if the video is not displayed) 

Many fostering services are investing in video content for their website, but this is the first example I’ve seen that has been shared beyond the immediate channels to increase reach and engagement levels.

Fostering Solutions’ one stop shop

A fostering one stop shop with a difference opened in Chelmsford this month.

Fostering Solutions' shop branded as ‘Your local foster care information centre’ provides information for prospective foster carers and is also a resource for existing foster carers seeking advice. 

It’s not clear from the article as to the opening hours of the shop, how it will be staffed and by who, but having a continued presence on the high street, facilitating one-to-one conversations as an extension of the standard information evening format is a great incentive to help recruit the foster carers needed in the area.

Joint independent and LA forum launches in Scotland

The Fostering Network Scotland’s recently established recruitment and retention forum met in Edinburgh on 4 December and brought together practitioners from local authority and independent and voluntary providers from throughout the country. 

Hosted by Barnardo’s Scotland, the meeting focused on developing ways of working together and included increasing awareness of each agency’s needs, better co-ordination of recruitment campaigns and exploring ways of sharing preparation groups and training opportunities. The forum also provides an opportunity to network and develop communication with other practitioners with a responsibility for recruitment and retention.

The next meeting will take place early March 2014, hosted by NFA in Stirling. Please contact Sarah McEnhill, for further information.


Needs analysis

Following feedback from our event and from when I’ve been out in the field, a number of foster carer recruiters are keen to have more information on needs analysis, specifically the type of information that will contribute to it. A thorough needs analysis will form the basis of your fostering services recruitment and retention strategies to ensure your service is meeting the needs of looked after children.

As such the following points are a guide as to what may shape your local needs analysis:

Local looked after children population profile 

  • What is the demographic make up of your current looked after children population?
  • What are the needs of your current looked after population (CWD, siblings, long term, short term)
  • How has this changed over the past three years?
  • What are the in-year fluctuations?
  • What percentage of children are placed as per the terms of their care plan?
  • Are looked after children currently in the most appropriate placement for their needs?
  • How many children are placed inhouse, with independent fostering providers' carers, in residential units – what are the trends to the types of foster care?
  • What are the trends in the children’s demographic profile (age, sex, ethnicity, religion) and needs?
  • How much does it cost to place children externally/in residential units for the different types of foster care?
  • How many children are placed beyond 20 miles of their home?
  • How many children from another LA have been placed in your authority?
  • How many placement moves were unplanned?
  • What is the cost of an unplanned placement move?
  • How many children are in the different types of fostering your service provides?

Edge of care population

  • How many children have a child protection plan?
  • What is the profile and needs of these children based on the questions above?

Population changes

  • What is the current young person population in your area?
  • How has this changed over the past three years?
  • Can you project any change in demographics – migration, ethnic diversity, birth rates?
  • How will this affect demand on your fostering service provision?

Foster carer population

  • How many foster carers do you have inhouse?
  • How many fostering households do you have?
  • What types of foster care are they approved for?
  • What is the demographic profile of your foster carers?
  • What is your service’s capacity utilisation?
  • What type of foster care do those with vacancies provide?
  • How long have those without placements been vacant?
  • What are the reasons for their vacancies?
  • What is the length of your foster carers’ career with you/in total?
  • How many foster carers have left your service in the past three years?
  • How many foster carers are supported per supervising social worker?

Foster carers leaving your service

  • What are the reasons for them leaving?
  • How many foster carers do you project may leave in the next year/three years?

Foster carers recruited

  • How many foster carers did you recruit in the past 12 months/three years?
  • What types of fostering were they approved for?
  • How many enquiries, initial visits, training, assessments and approvals has your service generated/carried out in the past 12 months/three years?
  • What were the reasons why prospective foster carers left at each stage of the process?
  • How much does it cost to recruit a foster carer? How does this differ on the different type of foster care?
  • How does your financial and support package compare with other local fostering providers?

External foster carer population

  • Which independent fostering services do you work with?
  • Are these relationships on a contract or spot purchasing basis?
  • What is the profile of their available foster carer population?

Where are the gaps?

  • Based on the needs of your current and projected looked after children population, do you have sufficient numbers of foster carers inhouse to meet their needs?
  • How can local independent fostering providers help address these gaps?
  • Do foster carers who are currently vacant have the skills and qualities needed to retrain and be re-approved to meet these gaps?
  • Do you need to recruit and retain more foster carers to provide sufficient placement choice?
  • Do you need to develop existing or create new relationships with other local fostering providers?

Having answered as many of the questions above as your data permits, you can draft your needs analysis’ executive summary of your key findings of what your research shows you.

The next stage is to use this information to form your fostering services recruitment and retention strategy and annual recruitment and retention action plan. This will ensure that your fostering service is aiming to recruit and retain only those foster carers needed to meet the needs of your current and project looked after children population.


Merry Christmas!

I hope you all manage to have at least a few days off over the Christmas holidays and I look forward to working with you more in the New Year.