Welcome back, full of energy, innovative ideas and drive to recruit and retain the foster carers you need for 2015.
Christmas is a time traditionally for family, however one defines theirs. It can be a particularly hard time for children in foster care who may not have had the ‘traditional’ experience synonymous with Christmas.
It is often a time when we see the real value of foster carers like Carolyn and Sylvia, welcoming fostered children into their homes and really making a difference. The festive season and New Year are also when people are most energised and open to consider new things, and many fostering services have sought to tap into this over the past few weeks.
We aren’t reinventing the wheel, but we are broadcasting to a new audience who may be at the right stage in their lives to consider fostering. Be consistent, positive and enthusiastic about the many benefits fostering can bring.
Middlesbrough Christmas TV ad
Middlesbrough Council produced this excellent, award winning TV advert in 2013, launching it on Christmas Day of that year, leading to a number of enquiries to the service.
Based on this previous success for raising awareness of fostering, the authority booked slots between this Christmas Day and 3 January 2015 in prime spaces throughout the day and evening on ITV.
The ad has generated over 40 enquirers, 18 of whom have been booked for initial screening so far.
TV has traditionally been seen as out of reach financially for many fostering services, but increasing numbers of services are individually or collectively investing in producing advertising through the medium. I will be keeping in touch with the team in Middlesbrough to track the progress of the enquiries to report back in future editions of Attracting and Keeping Carers.
Christmas hampers for teenagers leaving care
Foster carers are frequently praised for their kind hearts and selflessness in coming forward to foster, and many employed in the fostering sector also go above and beyond to make a difference. None more so this Christmas than Norma, a placement support worker in Rugby’s fostering team.
Recognising that young people leaving care are often left with few or any Christmas presents, she set about producing Christmas hampers for them. Starting out with donations from friends and family, Norma now receives donations from Tesco, Aldi and Next contributing to a record 62 hampers this year.
Actions such as these are a fantastic advert for the caring and generous nature of people who work within fostering, and a positive message for recruitment purposes too – I’m sure many in Rugby will be touched by Norma’s efforts and would want to work alongside people like her.
Brighton Christmas message
Christmas also represents an opportunity to acknowledge the impact of newly approved foster carers, as Brighton’s fostering service has done in this article.
The article conveys a number of positive messages, as well as acknowledging that foster carers take time to consider their decision before coming forward, as well as the reasons why they and others were and will be motivated to come forward.
I particularly like this article’s reference to the training on attachment theory, which will resonate with readers eager to learn new skills, but also the simple, real life pleasures that fostering can bring,
“We bought them some wellies and took them out for a walk with the dogs. They’d never had wellies before and spent all afternoon jumping in puddles. Or when we took them swimming for the first time. We couldn’t believe the sheer joy on their faces. It’s lovely to be able to share moments like that.”
Nottingham City engages with local faith groups
Many fostering services are having success in engaging faith groups to identify those within the community who may be able to foster, and Nottingham City Council is proving no exception.
A productive collaboration with Trent Vineyard saw over 50 church members attend a fostering and adoption information session. The group’s desire to participate within the community could have a positive influence on their willingness to foster, aided by existing foster carers, Tom and Helen who are active church members.
Although the authority has yet to receive any firm enquiries as a result, this positive connection with a local group has the potential to benefit Nottingham City’s recruitment and retention endeavours.
RCT hit the road
Rhondda Cynon Taff held a three-day fostering roadshow this month for interested members of the public to find out more about fostering.
The authority chose a mix of supermarket and community venues to showcase fostering with their eye-catching fostering branded car. The authority has been busy this month as it has also held its annual Foster Care Appreciation Lunch to celebrate the work of local foster carers.
I do understand the political need of local authorities to include quotes from incumbent politicians, but it is a shame when this is at the exclusion of those who foster, who have the ability to inspire and encourage others to consider it as their profession. Journalists don’t always print press releases verbatim but, as in the examples above, do look to include a foster carer angle in your features.
Facebook enquiry form in six easy steps
Establishing a Facebook presence and generating lively discussion on the feed is increasingly considered one of the primary tools in the foster carer recruitment and retention process.
Many fostering services have taken this to the next stage by adding additional tabs of information and online contact forms to make it easy for those keen to find out more to register their interest.
You do not need to be an expert in Java to add a basic enquiry form to your Facebook account, just six easy steps can create a professional and practical form in a morning’s work. ContactMe’s form, used by a number of fostering services already, is free and very straightforward to use.
Log into your Facebook account and type https://apps.facebook.com/contactme_tab/ into the URL to display this screen and select ‘Get Started’.
Select your fostering service’s page to which you want to add the form. In the tabs on the home screen, select Contact. If this does not automatically display, select More and Manage Tabs to move the Contact tab to a prominent position.
To activate your ContactMe tab, you will need to set up a free account with the service.
Once set up, and logged in, you can now select Edit Your Form from the Overview dashboard to customise the form to fit your needs.
Using the tools provided, give your form a title, drop in your fostering service’s logo, select the email address to receive enquiries, customise the fields to ask the initial questions you want and select Save Form. This will automatically update the form on your Facebook page.
Click back into your Facebook page, select the form and send yourself a message to test the form is working correctly. From this screen you can also measure the performance of your form by selecting the Admin tab.
The ContactMe software has the potential to synchronise contacts, tasks and calendars, plus extra usability if you decide to subscribe to a paid for account. For the purpose of generating a simple, free enquiry form, it is more than sufficient.
As we know, ‘build it and they will come’ does not apply online. But ‘build it and promote it’ and this form can be a simple tool to add to the channels for potential foster carers keen to find out more about fostering with your service.
You may not receive many submissions, or it could generate enquiries from unsuitable people, enabling you to assess the supplementary information about fostering you provide on your account. As with all online channels, it will provide you with statistical evidence to help you evaluate its impact on your foster carer recruitment efforts.
PS New inquiry on children in care
The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has launched a new inquiry on children in care in England after local authorities spent £2.5 billion in 2012-13 supporting children in foster and residential care.
The release states that there “has been no improvement since 2009 in getting children into the right placement first time and close to home. At the end of March 2013, 34% of children in care had more than one placement during the year, the same proportion since 2009 and 14% of foster children and 34% of those in residential care were placed more than 20 miles from home. The overall numbers have not improved in the last four years.”
The inquiry will examine how the Department for Education measures its effectiveness in improving the quality of care and meeting children’s needs, and improving the system’s cost-effectiveness. The committee will also look at how the Department will use its Innovation Programme to better understand what works in commissioning to improve outcomes for children in care.