Attracting and Keeping Carers - July 2013

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During foster carer recruitment campaigns, we often hear from foster carers who are confused by the messages that their fostering service needs more carers, when they themselves are without a placement.

The Fostering Network's response includes highlighting the need for good local relationships among local fostering providers and to match foster carers with the specific needs of the children. However how easy is it for fostering services to project future needs of looked-after children? How do you engage foster carers to explain the need for placement choice? Is your fostering service prepared to let certain foster carers who aren’t suitable go? All these questions and more will be the point of discussion in this month’s online chat, Friday 26 July between 2.00 and 4.00pm. Please do join us. 

Last month, we looked at enquiries, with most people clicking on ask the right questions and be selective. If you would like to add anything to these questions, do drop me an email with your thoughts and for this month’s chat, you can email me any questions that you’d like to ask or your views on ‘empty beds’.

Project update

The second survey for the project, Supporting fostering services to recruit more foster carers, is now available to complete.

The benchmarking survey combines questions from the Ofsted data return, CIPFA and additional information to provide, for the first time, a comprehensive look at local authority fostering service’s performance.

Local authority fostering services are asked to return the survey by 2 August to receive a local breakdown and a comparative analysis on a national level.

A completed benchmarking survey is a pre-requisite to being considered for the one-to-one support as part of the project; thank you to those who have responded to formally express interest.

Old Antrim Court House hosts foster carer celebration

The Northern Trust Participation and Lifeskills Project recently held an event with over 100 people to celebrate foster carers and looked-after children.

The event was a fantastic opportunity to praise the young people for their achievements and present foster carers with certificates for completing training. 

Margaret Kelly, the Director of the Fostering Network in Northern Ireland said: “We are delighted to have worked jointly with the Northern Trust and VOYPIC to promote and celebrate this year’s Foster Care Fortnight. 

"The Fostering Network works actively across all Trusts to increase rates of foster care recruitment and profile the excellent work of the foster carers for children and young people in their care. We look forward to developing our partnership with the Northern Trust across a range of events it the coming year”.

Pack your bags for fostering in Loughborough…

…sorry, not very original…but the tabloids do love a pun! 

Leicestershire County Council was out in force during June in a local supermarket promoting fostering, answering questions and explaining the process.
Supermarkets are a great resource through which to promote foster care, and many fostering services took the opportunity to advertise through Tesco during Foster Care Fortnight – something we hope to develop next year if of interest?

Be SMART when planning these types of events – who do you want to target, how many people do you want to target and so on are all important considerations when coming to evaluate such activities as opposed to the tempting but not worthwhile, “it went alright…”.

Business profiling

For all fostering services, but independent fostering services in particular, online visibility is a key issue as more and more potential foster carers look online to research fostering and their chosen provider.

Many invest in Google Adwords, which can provide a good return on investment. But at no cost ranking from a search engine can be boosted by good content, use of keywords and links from trusted sources .

Capstone’s business profile in Get Reading, the online content for the Reading Post, provides an opportunity to promote the service and fostering, but also get positive content in key areas to gain exposure.

STV search for a hero

The television channel STV in Scotland is on the hunt for the unsung heroes whose hard work, ingenuity, ambition and generosity improve both their local communities and the lives of people around them.

Nominations closed on 12 July, and we’re hoping a few foster carers have been put forward.

We try to move away from the ‘superhuman’ tag for foster carers to make fostering more accessible to those people who are more likely to come forward, but if managed well, these type of initiatives are a great way to raise awareness and the profile of fostering locally. Keep a look out for similar in your area.

Hillingdon seek innovation in social work

Although geared more to adoption than fostering, despite the title of the article, this feature on Hillingdon’s social care approach invokes thoughts of Roald Dahl’s Matilda in looking to a child’s immediate relationships for a possible match. 

Fostering services across the UK are beginning to look for transferable skills from particular industries to target individuals who may have the requisite skills to foster a child with challenging needs – Staffordshire’s Resilience Foster Care being one such scheme. But where a child needs a long term foster carer, Hillingdon’s approach can use the detail in the child’s assessment to identify individuals who may be able to provide the stability and familiarity that child needs. The downside of course is that the approval process can take up to nine months, a long wait for a child who needs a foster family immediately. However as the London Borough of Lewisham has shown, this can be brought down to two months. 

A further point of interest is the structure of the social work teams. The pod/area-based approach is being used by a number of fostering services to create better working relationships and knowledge sharing. Ensuring all staff involved in foster carer recruitment and retention have good working relationships goes a long way to finding the right foster carers for the children who need them.

IN FOCUS

This month’s IN FOCUS and online chat will look at the issue of “empty beds”. At the Fostering Network we hear from foster carers who are frustrated when they have vacancies for long periods of time, particularly when they are not told the reason for this, and if their fostering service is still recruiting new foster carers. 

Of course, we always explain to them that it is essential that there are sufficient vacancies at all times to ensure that children are able to live with foster carers who are right for them, and who are ideally in their local area. We also talk about the need to keep sibling groups together, as well as the importance of careful matching. 

But despite this, we know that there are more complicated reasons why some foster carers have vacancies while more are being recruited.

The Fostering Network is developing a position statement on this issue, and would like to hear your views. We have also pulled together some “top tips” on how to manage the situation:

1.  Know your looked-after children population and your foster carer workforce, and recruit accordingly

A good needs analysis is the basis for understanding the children you have in care and on the edge of care, the foster carers in-house who can meet their needs, and hence the foster carers you need to recruit.

2.  Develop good relationships with other fostering services

Working closely together can help fostering services to make best use of the existing foster care workforce. This means good commissioning, and IFPs recruiting to meet the needs of local authorities. Local authorities can also share/sell foster care placements with neighbouring authorities where possible. 

3.  Don’t recruit foster carers you don’t need

The Fostering Network believes that no fostering services should be recruiting foster carers for whom there is no demand. If you don’t need the skills an inquirer has to offer, pass them on to neighbouring fostering services that may be recruiting.

4.  Consider retraining 

If a foster carer is not offering the skills and placement type you currently need, consider whether they can widen the range of children they take after more training.

5.  Find other ways of using foster carers’ skills between placements

Alternatively you could think about whether foster carers with vacancies have skills that could be used in other ways between placements, for example in supporting other foster carers, providing respite care or delivering training. The Fostering Network’s view is that, regardless, fostering services should pay their foster carers between placements.

6.  Keep foster carers in the loop 

Explain to foster carers why they haven’t had placements, and try to give them an indication of when they might next be called upon. Talk through retraining options or using their skills in another way if appropriate. In cases where you think you will not be able to place a child with foster carers in the long term, you must be open and honest with them about this and the reasons for this. This will give them the opportunity to make an active choice on next steps, perhaps moving on to another fostering service or looking for a new career.

PS

I appreciate that we, amongst others, are a bit survey-heavy of late, and many thanks for your patience and support in these areas. 

I am still keen to hear back from fostering services to capture how Foster Care Fortnight went for you locally and inform how we do it next year. As such, please take 10 minutes to complete the Foster Care Fortnight evaluation survey; your help is very much appreciated.