Attracting and Keeping Carers - February 2014

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February, the month in which ‘romance’ is commercially celebrated by the modern day St Moonpig, brings to a close January’s New Year foster carer recruitment campaigns and is hopefully a time for information sessions and a peak of initial visits.

I’ve scoured the web this month for any hint of a St Valentine’s day inspired foster carer recruitment campaign, and am somewhat relieved that my search came up empty. If though your fostering service has run such a campaign either this year or in the past, please do get in touch and let me know what you did!

Foster Care Fortnight workshops are up and running, and IN FOCUS takes a look at how you can get involved. 

This month’s online discussion topic is placement stability. I’ve heard from a number of fostering services that have stability rates well over 90 per cent – how is this reflected in your area? Are there any trends emerging? What can be done to prevent placement breakdown? Have you successfully retrained foster carers to match local needs? What other professionals have you on hand to develop the ‘team around the foster carer’?

Join us online on Tuesday 25 February, 2.00-4.00pm 

Preventing placement breakdowns

This month’s online discussion is sparked by the article written by the Fostering Network’s head of media and campaigns, Jackie Sanders, on preventing the breakdown of fostering relationships in The Guardian. 

Jackie’s article highlights the issues surrounding sibling groups, 450 of whom according to Ofsted were separated in England despite the plan for them to be together, as fostering services were unable to find a foster carer who could take them all. It also points to around 4,000 unplanned endings in England alone each year. 

The theory to resolve this in essence is sound; train, support and recognise foster carers with the ability and capacity to foster the children who need homes. But in reality, what steps are fostering services taking to ensure the first match is the right match, which lasts? Join us, Tuesday 25 February, 2.00-4.00pm

The importance of matching

An unfortunate piece of coverage for Harrow Council, but something which I’m sure resonates with fostering services across the UK, and you can sympathise with.

The case concerns the adoption of a young Somali girl by a non-Somali female couple. While I’m sure in hindsight the authority will regret the process progressed to that stage and there will be confidential reasons why her relations were considered unsuitable, it highlights the difficulties often found to engage communities in which fostering is an unfamiliar concept.

I’m often asked for advice in this area, and shared some of my views for how to engage with a range of communities in a recent blog. If your fostering service has run a campaign that has had success in this area, do get in touch with your top tips.

Fostering Solutions Myth busting

Nice to see Fostering Solutions in Scotland getting their myth busting in early in readiness for this year’s Foster Care Fortnight, Guess who fosters theme…!

It’s also good to see that they are ‘working with the council to recruit families to address a shortage of carers’, implying some form of dialogue to identify local need.

As with this and Children First’s current campaign, be sure to include information on the type of prospective foster carers you seek, including their skills and any transferable experience they can bring, as well as the information on their personal circumstances that might not necessarily preclude them from fostering.

Foster carers support Isle of Man campaign

Foster carers on the Isle of Man are fronting a campaign to help find the next generation of foster carers on the island. The inspiring story on the BBC’s website details their experience of fostering for almost 50 years, during which time around 150 children have been in their care.

This article ticks a lot of boxes for me:

  • Involving existing foster carers in local recruitment campaigns and stating that they, “will be on hand to give advice at a number of drop in sessions in coming weeks” makes attendance an attractive option for aspiring foster carers.
  • Deputy team manager, Nigel Howard’s, quote, “All carers take on different fostering functions. The need is around how we match carers with children.” In two short sentences Nigel has perfectly summed up the variety of the role of a foster carer and the need to find the right foster carer at the right time for individual children.
  • The inclusion of the upcoming drop-in session dates is a bonus, although the times have been omitted which is a shame and there is no link back to a website for further information.

Overall this is great local interest story, which has engaged local media, with a good call to action to attend an information session to find out more.

Foster family friendly policies

As part of our DfE funded project Supporting fostering services to recruit more foster carers, we will shortly reporting on the findings from our foster carers in external employment research.

This work is leading to the development of a template foster carer friendly HR policy for employers, which will provide guidance and support, and help support foster carers who may wish to work in addition to being a foster carer.

This article from Cumbria County Council not only profiles a fantastic foster carer and identifies her transferrable skills, but the publishers of the News & Star newspaper - CN Group - are the first fostering-friendly employer based in Cumbria. They have therefore highlighted the types of support employers can offer, and championed others to take some simple steps that could help their employees become foster parents.

Celebrity childhood snaps

Stars of stage and screen provided some of the childhood snaps to support Barnardo’s recent fostering and adoption recruitment campaign.

Great to see the Fostering Network’s recruitment target has been included, and I hope other fostering services managed to secure media coverage on the back of our release in January. Please do reference the Fostering Network if you incorporate these figures into your campaign.

IN FOCUS

The theme for this year's Foster Care Fortnight™ is Guess who fosters, engaging members of the public and prospective foster carers and challenging them to try and identify who are foster carers, and why they may have the skills and qualities needed to be a foster carer.

Guess who fosters aims to build on last year's Get in the frame theme by being a visually impactful campaign and adaptable locally, regionally and nationally.

The spotlight this year is on foster carers, specifically your foster carers. The campaign is a chance to celebrate their continuous support, skills and qualities they bring to your organisation to help attract more people like them to enquire about being a foster carer for your fostering service.

What messages can I include?

Guess who fosters can be used to challenge any pre-conceived stereotypes around who can foster for your fostering service. This year's theme can also be adapted to target different demographics, depending on your local needs. 

As in the following example of a mock up Guess who fosters poster, you can profile particular demographics including ethnicity, age and location or include a same sex couple, or people that have a specific occupation such as a foster carer who also works in the health service or police force for example to encourage people who may have what it takes, but do not think they can foster, to come forward.

Guess who fosters poster example

Who should I profile?

Pick from your current foster carers those who will speak positively about their experience of fostering with you and will help to attract the types of new foster carers you need to meet the needs of your local looked after children.

Word of mouth continues to be a powerful tool in foster carer recruitment and seeing 'someone like me' fostering may prompt a prospective foster carer to find out more.

You may choose to reward your existing foster carers through 'recommend a friend' schemes, but fundamentally your foster carers should at the least be informed about your recruitment campaign and the reasons for recruiting new foster carers, particularly if they are currently without placement. 

How should I develop the campaign?

Profile your existing foster carers in the form of case studies, which will provide you with content for your website and any social media channels you use.

Case studies of foster carers will also appeal to local journalists, who may choose to write a feature in their publication. Make sure any press releases contain information on the number of new foster carers you need to recruit, times and dates of any upcoming information sessions and crucially how any interested people can find out more.

In addition to online and media coverage, your campaign could have an offline presence. You can use your images of foster carers on posters and flyers, and create a buzz in your local high street by inviting foster carers and others to attend and encouraging members of the public to guess who fosters.

Keep a look out for the Fostering Network's activity during the week via social media. Follow us at @fosteringnet and like the Fostering Network's Facebook page to see our daily updates which you can share with your online audience. You can also include #guesswhofosters in your tweets to be a part of the overall campaign.

You may choose your current foster carers for all of your case studies, but in the spirit of guessing, you could include some 'red herrings' too. For example, you could profile a son or daughter of an existing foster carer and their role and experiences within the fostering family. Your team manager or lead councillor for children's services may not foster, but a case study on how they support fostering could help raise the profile of fostering in your area. Similarly the support of a local celebrity could add weight to your campaign and get people wondering whether or not they foster.

Where can I find out more?

You can download the guide to getting involved in Foster Care Fortnight 2014 to read more about these ideas and others for how you can make the most of Foster Care Fortnight™ 2014.