Attracting and Keeping Carers - March 2014

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Spring is definitely springing; seasonal daffodils and crocuses are out in abundance and the first weekend of sunshine brought with it the customary shorts and flip-flops combo throughout parks across the land despite the chill in the air.

It’s reassuring to know that at the first sign of sun, us Brits will brave arctic winds to enjoy any amount of vitamin D. This time of year is a great opportunity to tap into this positivity, re-invigorating those slipped New Year’s resolutions with a ‘Spring into fostering’ type campaign. If you’re in the process of doing this, let me know, I’d love to see.

Last week saw the culmination of the Foster Care Fortnight™ roadshow. Thank you to everyone that attended and participated in London, Birmingham, Leeds, Cardiff and Glasgow. There are some fantastic ideas in the offing to make the most of this year’s guess who fosters theme, which I’m very much looking forward to seeing develop. If you’d like your fostering service to be a part of this year’s campaign, take a look at our Guide to getting involved or do get in touch for more information and the guess who fosters logo. 

Leeds’ teenage fostering campaign

A key feature of the Foster Care Fortnight™ workshops has been a focus on targeting campaigns for specific needs.

Leeds City Council is doing just that with the message, ‘Can you give a teenager a fresh start in life?’. The practical content of this article is good; being clear when and where the drop-in sessions are but also stating that “The event will give people the chance to hear from foster carers what it is really like to look after a teenager in care, as well as hearing from fostering experts from Leeds City Council's fostering team about what help, advice, support and training is on offer to potential carers.”

The article also touches on local community, fostering children in their ‘home city’ to maintain their links to schools and community (family). As the Why foster carers care report shows, a sense of giving something back to the local community is a key reason why some choose to foster. I really like the emphasising of recognition through training and qualifications, but particularly the piece about the foster carers who have fostered teenagers for over 30 years and their award of an MBE, is fantastic. 

Local drive for foster family friendly employers

An innovative partnership between Cumbria County Council and the News and Star local newspaper is campaigning for more local businesses to sign up to being fostering friendly employers.

Securing the support of the local newspaper is a brilliant coup for the local authority, providing the opportunity to engage local employers to give support to those current foster carers in their staff or those considering fostering, alongside raising the profile of fostering in the area.
National adventure organisation, Go Ape, are the latest to subscribe to this scheme which gives the added benefit for existing foster families to try Go Ape during Foster Care Fortnight™ 2014.

If your fostering service has developed a similar initiative, please get in touch with the details: james.foyle@fostering.net

Sunbeam foster carer profile

As I’ve been sharing with attendees at the Foster Care Fortnight™ workshops, this year’s guess who fosters theme is nicely set up to celebrate the work of your existing foster carers by showcasing the skills and qualities that make them foster carers.

One of the ways to achieve this is through profiling your foster carers and their experiences of foster care in the form of case studies. A good example of a foster carer profile comes from Sunbeam Fostering Agency, which took the opportunity to feature a lesbian foster carer as part of the recent LGBT week campaign.

The article takes the form of a question and answer, with the fostering service providing a framework to ensure some of the key areas are covered, including her motivations, barriers and experience of fostering. This approach can often mean some pertinent information or a useful quip doesn’t get mentioned, but this is a very honest article with lovely anecdotes of ‘building dens underneath the dining table’ and watching a child learn to swim.

Check out some of the top tips for creating case studies and profiles in this month’s IN FOCUS.

Worcestershire newsletter

Keeping in touch with your foster carers, keeping them up to date with the latest information and inviting them to share their thoughts and experiences is a valued piece of a fostering services retention offer.

A newsletter is one of the ways fostering services can achieve this, and I was recently struck by the breadth and depth of content provided by Worcestershire County Council in their newsletter to foster carers.

Togethernews is a 16-page quarterly packed with information including activities, training and information sessions as well as updates on the policy changes following the Fostering Network’s Don’t Move Me campaign.

I was particularly impressed by their inclusion of their current recruitment campaign, being transparent about the types of foster carers they are seeking to recruit. Seeing their fostering service’s recruitment campaign can often be a bone of contention for those current foster carers without placements. 

Using the newsletter to explain who is being targeted and why, as well as encouraging foster carers to get involved, is an important step in communications.

Send your foster carer newsletters to james.foyle@fostering.net

Fostering in Wales: who cares and why

Fostering services from across Wales came together on Monday 10 March in Cardiff to hear the findings from the Fostering Network Wales’s research into the values and motivations of foster carers.

We, in partnership with consultancy iMPOWER, have been funded by the Welsh Government to use the Values Modes tool to research the values of foster carers in Wales to assist with recruitment and retention.

As discovered in England, the findings show that foster carers in Wales have a significant skew towards Pioneer values. Fostering services across Wales can use the findings to inform the messages and ‘offer’ in their recruitment activity, and to shape how they support and communicate with foster carers as part of their retention strategies.

The full report will be shared on the Fostering Network’s website soon.

IN FOCUS

Foster carer profiling

To make the most of this year’s Foster Care Fortnight™ campaign theme, guess who fosters, existing foster carers are likely to feature heavily, be this at information sessions, helping staff stalls or attending events. 

You may also choose to seek their support online, asking them to contribute material for a blog, a case study or even a game.

This month’s IN FOCUS looks at some top tips for supporting foster carers to get involved in your guess who fosters campaign online:

1.    Choose carefully – articulate, positive, engaged

Not all of your foster carers will either want or be able to provide a profile for your campaign. Try and choose at least three foster carers (depending on the size of your fostering service) to provide a varied view on the experience of fostering for your service.
Select those who are already engaged with your fostering service through the attendance at information sessions for example, those who will speak positively but also honestly about their experience of fostering with your service, and those who provide the type of fostering to which your service is looking to recruit.


2.    Choose a platform – text, audio or visual 

Profiles may in the first instance be in the form of text content. The popularity and accessibility of social media sites permits a now wider platform from which to broadcast your messages. Your foster carers may prefer to provide an audio profile, which could be uploaded to your website or a free alternative such as Audioboo. A profile could be filmed and uploaded to a site such as YouTube. Or you may choose to produce one of each to provide a good variety of channels to appeal to the diverse preferences of your target audience. For more information on these and other social media channels, see our new social media guide, Developing your social media presence.

3.    Provide a framework – question and answer

You may choose to give your chosen foster carers free rein to write about their experiences as a foster carer, perhaps as in the style of the secret foster carer blog. However, this may mean that crucial or pertinent information is missed, or the foster carer is left struggling to know what to write. You may therefore decide to provide a framework as in the Sunbeam answer above to support your foster carers to produce their profile. By doing so, you can ensure they address key areas including how they overcame some of those perceived barriers of why some people don’t come forward and how they address challenges as well as the positives of fostering.

4.    Proof the content – protect all those involved

Support foster carers to produce their profiles by outlining the content they can and cannot share, such as the identities of the children they look after (no prizes for working out which that one falls into!). 
It is important to check through the content of their profile to ensure any sensitive information hasn’t been revealed, and whether you are happy with the tone of their article. 

You may decide to start this process now so you have all profiles signed off ahead of the fortnight ready to disseminate.

5.    Share your proposed changes – explain why

Creating profiles of your existing foster carers is a tool to not only address some of the myths and barriers to fostering to encourage others to come forward, but also recognise the work that your current foster carers do and involve them to talk about their experiences. 

If some of the content isn’t suitable or you aren’t happy with the tone, work with the author to explain why you want to make changes as opposed to making them without their knowledge. Like with many aspects of your fostering service, they will appreciate your openness and the opportunity to discuss. It is important to maintain this relationship.

6.    Where to post – website or blogsite

Although sites such as Blogger and Wordpress are established to host blog content, your fostering service’s website page is a good location for your foster carer profiles.

If possible, you should enable a comment facility to allow prospective foster carers to ask questions on the content, enabling you to respond and monitor those frequently asked to address these in other areas of your information provision.

Once uploaded, be sure to drive traffic to them by signposting people to them through newsletters, social media, leaflets, postcards or even bespoke foster carer business cards so they benefit those interested in researching fostering.

7.    See it through – follow up enquiries

If prospective foster carers do comment on foster carers’ profiles via the website or social media, follow these up with an answer to their question or response to their comment, and invite them to attend an information event or give your service a call if appropriate.
Creating foster carer profiles, blogs or other material doesn’t have to occur in isolation as you may have more willing participants who would enjoy producing content on a regular basis throughout the year. You may also choose to trial this with foster carers who are without a placement for a period of time, keeping them involved and engaged in the fostering service until a placement for them becomes available.

Alternative profiles

The guess who fosters theme could also be an opportunity to create some fictitious profiles of who couldn’t foster and why, to help ensure only those suitable make an enquiry. Or if you are encouraging your audience to guess who fosters, you could profile some ‘red herrings’, for example people connected to fostering such as members of the fostering service, a local celebrity or politician. They may not foster but you can demonstrate how they support fostering in your area.