Attracting and Keeping Carers – May 2013

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Welcome to the second edition of the new Attracting and Keeping Carers blog.

​This month is all about Foster Care Fortnight® and raising the profile of fostering across the UK. We’ve been asking fostering services to ‘get in the frame’ and send us their photos of them, foster carers, prospective foster carers and all supporters of fostering in picture frames to join in the campaign.

The response has been fantastic; thank you to everyone who has made the most of the theme in your local area and sent your pictures through to be added to our Pinterest board. Please keep sending them through to fcf@fostering.net throughout and after the campaign to show the diversity of people who support fostering throughout the UK.

This month's IN FOCUS section looks at Essex’s new video, launched at the start of Foster Care Fortnight. The top tips provide good practice ideas for handling initial enquiries.

Get in the frame

I have been truly overwhelmed by how fostering services have taken the concept of get in the frame this Foster Care Fortnight and run with it in a plethora of creative ways. From head stands in the frame to Birmingham’s get in the frame tshirts and Eden Foster Care’s give a child a childhood frame, fostering services have been using their frames and their imaginations to capture the diversity of fostering in the UK to raise the profile of fostering in their area, and encourage people to find out more.

We launched in the media with an exclusive for the Independent on Sunday covering the impact of fostering on siblings, with the headline, More than half of children are split up from their brothers and sisters as demand for carers rises. Our survey of foster carers found that one in three foster carers have looked after children whose brothers and sisters were placed elsewhere because the fostering service couldn’t find a place to keep them all together.

In addition to sibling groups, our press release focused generally on the stability for children in care, and we’ve been delighted by the national, regional and local coverage that’s been generated. We had first morning coverage on Sky News, BBC Breakfast – with foster carer and former England and Liverpool footballer Mark Wright – and Lorraine Pascale on the Lorraine Kelly Show.

We are keen to monitor the success of the campaign so please do send through details of the media coverage you’ve received to fcf@fostering.net. So far we’ve counted more than 800 pieces of media coverage generated on the campaign.

Celebrities as well have kindly lent their support to the campaign. Lorraine Pascale and Gareth Gates got in the frame for us, Sir Ranulph Fiennes in Somerset, former England wicket keeper Jack Russell in South Gloucestershire, and Paralympian David Roberts to name but a few. Politicians too have come forward including the ministers with responsibility for fostering in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and despite some concern of the ‘You’ve Been Framed’ connotations, even former Home Secretary David Blunkett joined in!

But of course, the real stars of the campaign have been those foster carers that have been supporting your campaigns and providing the inspiration to many to pick up the phone and make an enquiry.

“Caring for children with complex needs isn’t scary – I’ve done it”, "I'm in the frame for fostering because I love the energy young people bring to my home. No day is the same, some days are challenging and some days are joyous" and "I can honestly say that alongside raising our own young family, fostering has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. To protect, support and care for a young person brings benefits without measure" are just some of the fabulous quotes that people have sent in, providing the substance to what we’re trying to achieve.

Thank you again to everyone who has participated in this year’s campaign. If there are any stragglers who have yet to send through pics to add to the gallery, there’s still time! Please email fcf@fostering.net

Foster Care Fortnight evaluation

To see how the success of the campaign translates to approved foster carers, I’d be grateful if all fostering services could complete the Foster Care Fortnight enquiry tracking spreadsheet. I will be seeking a progress update in November and the final version in May.

Please do invest some time in completing this monitoring tool as it will provide valuable information in shaping future for Foster Care Fortnight campaigns.

Foster Carer of the Year award

Congratulations to Josephine McClelland who was last week (17 May 2013) crowned the Foster Carer of the Year for Northern Ireland at a ceremony in the Great Hall of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Fostering 20 children over the past 15 years, Josephine won the award for her dedication and commitment, recognised in a moving nomination by a young person in her care: “Words alone are not enough to explain all that Josephine has done for me. She has always stood by my side, through my achievements and failures, praising and comforting me. She has changed my life.”

Holding an annual celebration can be a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge the work that your foster carers do, as part of your retention activity. Photos taken at the event can also be used to generate PR in the local press, as well as forming part of recruitment collateral.

Supporting fostering services to recruit more foster carers

The Fostering Network is delighted to announce that we have won the tender to deliver the Department for Education’s Supporting Fostering Services to Recruit More Foster Carers contract.

The two year contract will kick off by exploring what motivates and drives foster carers through a psychometric profiling tool called values modes. The results of this and the wider questions asked through the national foster carer recruitment survey will inform a further part of the tender, providing one-to-one support for 25 local authority fostering services (15 in year one, 10 in year two). As such, we do need a high completion rate from all fostering services to generate meaningful evidence from the survey, so please do encourage your foster carers to complete it:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/foster-carer-recruitment-survey

Beyond the survey, I am keen to explore the appetite for regional foster carer recruitment forums to add to those already established throughout the UK. Existing forums meet either quarterly or six monthly, sharing ideas of best practice and local statistics including conversion rates, as well as updates from the Fostering Network and ideas for joint working.. Prime areas to set up new forums include the west and east midlands, plus in the Yorkshire and Humber region. If you would be keen to form part of a forum, please leave your comments below or email fcf@fostering.net

Recruitment and retention in foster care: Sharing good practise

To celebrate Foster Care Fortnight and centre discussion on foster carer recruitment and retention the Scottish Government hosted a half day seminar and a ministerial reception for foster carers on 14 May. Over 100 delegates including foster carers, managers and recruitment workers gathered at Glasgow’s magnificent City Chambers.

The event, hosted by the Scottish Government, was opened by Cllr Matt Kerr of Glasgow City Council along with Clare Hughes, service manager at Glasgow’s Families for Children. The authority is the largest provider of out of care placements for children in Scotland and is increasingly caring for vulnerable babies.

The Fostering Network’s Sara Lurie and Sarah McEnhill began the presentations, sharing lessons learned from previous campaigns and highlighting some findings from the Fostering Network. The presentation stressed that supporting existing carers to ensure retention must be given attention, as well as focusing work on the recruitment of new applicants.

If you attended the event, what did you think? Do you think the Scottish Government is doing enough to support foster carer recruitment and retention in Scotland? Post a comment below.

In focus

While watching Mission Impossible the other evening, I couldn’t help but giggle at Tom Cruise’s attempt to find the elusive ‘Max’ with a quick search for max.com. Since those heady days in 1996, the Internet has mushroomed into a hub of content on a scale never witnessed before. Even in 2010 we were creating “as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003”. This time last year, we were uploading 72 hours’ worth of content to YouTube every minute. Take a minute to absorb that. While it is probably fair to assume that there is negligible demand for the majority of this content, a good information film can encourage the viewer to act. 

Across the UK, more and more fostering services are developing film content to support their foster carer recruitment campaigns.

Essex County Council place around 400 children a year in foster families, and like many other fostering services across the UK, have a pressing need to recruit more foster carers to meet the demand.

This demand, like many other fostering services, is for foster carers for teenagers and children with disabilities. To launch Foster Care Fortnight, the service released two new videos, one for each group, to encourage more people to come forward.

I posed some questions to Essex’s account executive, Kate Wilde, to find out why they chose film for their campaign, how it benefits people making the decision to foster, the financial commitment, and how Essex intends to evaluate the impact of the films:

In Essex our priority needs are for foster carers who are willing to care for teenagers and children with disabilities. Our aim is to increase the numbers of carers for these particular types of children so that we can increase the likelihood of placement choice. Many carers may never have considered caring for older children or children with disabilities and yet with the right support they may be capable of providing a stable and loving home for these children. We were very keen to dispel the myths around caring for teenagers and children with disabilities.

Many foster carers are cautious about taking older children or children with disabilities and hearing from people who are already doing the job is an excellent way of finding out more. We were also keen to show fostering from the perspective of the young person and included footage from care leavers explaining the difference that being fostered in a caring family environment as a teenager has made to them. As well as a recruitment tool for new carers, the DVD is also going to be used with our existing carers who may be considering widening their approval range.

It cost under £3,500 to film and edit the two DVDs. If it results in more young people getting a good placement then it is money well spent!

The DVD is on YouTube and our own website, so data will be available about the number of views. We will be looking at the numbers of enquiries we receive from carers willing to consider these particular types of children. There is a national shortage of carers for these children so we are unlikely to change the situation overnight and it may take some time before we see the results.

 

Kate Wilde, Account Executive, Essex County Council

Kate also provided her five top tips to fostering services considering producing a foster carer recruitment film:

  1. Location – our DVD was filmed in one location on one day but by varying the background it gives the impression that is filmed in several locations and is more interesting to the viewer.
  2. Scripts – it is a good to have an idea of the types of topics you wish to cover but I don’t advise reading from a script, it rarely sounds natural.
  3. Permissions – it goes without saying that if you are featuring foster carers/young people in your DVD make sure that you have written consent from all relevant parties.
  4. Put your carers/care leavers at ease. Some of our carers felt very nervous about being filmed. Be prepared to put them at ease and allow time for several retakes.
  5. Promote your DVD. There is little point in making the DVD if it stays hidden in a cupboard. Think about where you can use it and how. We held a premiere and invited press, members of the fostering service, councillors and foster carers to come and view the DVD on the big screen.

What would you add to this list from your experience of producing film content for foster carer recruitment and retention?