Attracting and Keeping Carers - October 2013

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The i’s have been dotted and t’s have been crossed, and we can now announce the 15 local authorities that we will be working with to March 2014 to support them in their recruitment of foster carers.

The 14 local authorities selected are: Brighton, Essex, Kirklees, Lincolnshire, Lewisham, Manchester, North Tyneside, North Yorkshire, Redcar and Cleveland, South Gloucestershire, Surrey, Walsall, Wandsworth and Wiltshire.

These authorities will be working with us to identify how the findings from the Values Modes research and benchmark analysis can be integrated into their recruitment strategies, and how the learning from these can be shared with all fostering services.

We will be launching the findings of the Values Modes research, the benchmarking survey and our employer survey at our showcase recruitment event, Transforming foster carer recruitment: An evidence base for attracting, recruiting and retaining your service’s future foster carers. The values approach to foster carer recruitment has been used to great effect in a number of authorities to date. The event will include a case study of this work, providing direct examples of how it can improve foster carer recruitment and also retention locally and operational efficiency.

All members of the Fostering Network can benefit from an early-bird discounted price until the end of October of just £120 + VAT.

60 little things

Foster Care UK have recently launched a new recruitment campaign entitled 60 little things, which in the words of MD Jonathan Toomey, “highlights perfectly the ups and downs of being a foster carer and the positive, lasting impact made upon the children and young people”.

The campaign includes some sample case studies, each of which are asked what it takes to be a foster carer, how important it is to be honest about the ups and the downs to potential foster carers and why FosterCare UK?

With these three simple questions, Foster Care UK is able to illicit from existing foster carers the skills and qualities needed, the realities of fostering, and the support their service can provide. More and more fostering services are asking existing foster carers to speak on their behalf, but do tailor the questions to get the best answers to advertise your service.

Essex fostering abseilEssex Council's fostering abseil to raise awareness

Fatima Whitbread appears to have been busy of late, for as well as supporting Foster Care UK’s campaign, she’s been abseiling down County Hall in Chelmsford to raise awareness of fostering in Essex!

The PR stunt organised by Essex County Council attracted coverage from local press and radio and helped raise over £1,100 for fostering.

I do, we do, could you?

This is the strapline for Fife Council’s new integrated foster carer recruitment campaign. A number of fostering services are still to make the case for the use of social media, but Fife have been bold in linking their Twitter feed on to their website’s homepage, picking out all tweets with the hashtag #fosterforfife. 
The branding on all advertising is consistent across the board, and the video content provides interesting insight and is professionally produced.

A stronger to call to action, for example a ‘find out more’ button on the home page, could make the user journey to making an enquiry simpler. This is a feature on another new website launched in Scotland this month by Edinburgh Council. For both what do you think works well and what could be improved?

Nobi and Kelly’s story

Continuing, the myth busting theme of late, Wolverhampton have embarked on a new recruitment campaign starring Nobi and her partner Kelly, the first lesbian couple to foster for Wolverhampton City Council (WCC). At 26, Kelly is also the youngest foster carer for WCC.

As well as raising awareness of the diversity of people who could potentially foster, the overwhelmingly heart-warming element of their story is their experience that led them to consider fostering. In an article for Zone Magazine, Nobi says, “There was a family on the estate who we’d seen were struggling, and they had the authorities  coming in, so some of the residents got together to try and help them.”

The article works for anyone; it could be a heterosexual couple’s perspective, proving that sexual orientation isn’t a barrier if you have the skills to foster. The above comment also points to the experience, their community and caring spirit, which make them good candidates for WCC to put forward for training and assessment. Not everyone will have what it takes, and being part of a gay couple doesn’t mean a person has the right skills or automatically makes them eligible to foster. However this article (link to follow) does challenge stereotypes and speaks positively of a very inspiring foster carer’s experience.

 

Fostering Solutions recruit a new recruitment officer

At first glance, this article stood out as fostering services often opt to profile a foster carer as opposed to a member of the team in press releases. Reading on, it became clear why Fostering Solutions chose to profile Sarah and what a good idea that was.

Sarah’s first aims are to, “(forge) links with local people, businesses and organisations to ensure they know we’re here and we’re making a difference to the lives of vulnerable local children.” An article in your local paper can definitely help with that.

Foster carer recruitment is often associated with just an organisation, but it is a customer relationship and the people who come forward value greatly the opportunity to have a conversation. By putting a face to recruitment, it can immediately soften the organisational, potentially bureaucratic perception and, coupled with the right messaging, can encourage more people with desired qualities to come forward.

Doncaster’s childhood heroes

Former England football player and manager, Kevin Keegan, is backing a new fostering recruitment campaign in Doncaster themed around childhood heroes.

The Fostering Network has steered away from calling foster carers super heroes in recent years to make the profession more accessible to people that feel they couldn’t fulfil the role. However, this campaign is focused on the benefits of a positive role model for children who have had a troubled start in life, with Keegan stating, “Never underestimate the power a positive role model can have on a child’s future - anybody who can dedicate their lives to giving children a better life and providing inspiration for their future is a true superhero in my eyes!”, a powerful message.

Have you tried or are you currently running a superhero inspired campaign? How has it worked for you? Please do share your thoughts in this month’s online chat

Cumbria Thunderclap

Social media platforms come and go, and it’s often difficult to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s hot and what’s not!

Cumbria Council introduced a new one to me this month, Thunderclap. The premise is simple but potentially very effective in disseminating a status of your choosing. The tool works on Facebook; the service decides what it wants to say and invites other users to ‘donate’ a status update. When the selected number of individuals, say 500, have signed up to supporting the message, Thunderclap shares the message through each user, maximising the message’s reach.

Provided those who sign up fulfil desired demographic criteria, this free resource could be a useful tool to amplify your message through social media.

IN FOCUS

Fostering services' uptake of social media continues to increase, but there remains some uncertainty on what it actually brings to foster carer recruitment. As a head of service at our recent Annual Conference said, "it's reach is broad, but it tends to be quantity over quality as a result". That said, I know of fostering services, including St Christopher's Fellowship who have approved foster carers as a result of a Facebook enquiry (if your service has approved foster carers as a result of a Facebook or any other social media platform enquiry, please get in touch).

At the time of writing, I found 31 fostering service bespoke Facebook pages or 'people' (discounting those that were included in main local authority pages), and 38 Twitter profiles via the respective sites' search engines. As this only represents around 6 and 8 per cent of total fostering services in the UK, I don't doubt there are plenty more out there, and if you are having particular success through these channels, I'd love to hear from you.

So for this month's IN FOCUS, in the spirit of social media, I've put together this infographic on some interesting facts on social media research generated in the last 12 months.

The pace of social media continues to move at what often seems like a million miles an hour, and these figures will hold true for the fleeting instant they are published. However, they do give some fascinating insight into the reach of these channels and to the demographics they most appeal.

For those new to social media, our getting started in social media guide will provide some handy tips on how to develop a social media presence for your fostering service. We hope to be able to follow this up with further guides focusing on content and using the advertising function of these platforms soon.

PS

Sons and daughters campaign - What did you get up to celebrate? Send in your stories and pics to james.foyle@fostering.net for next month’s AKC. And there’s still time for young people to send in their blogs – the competition closes on 31 October.

We’re walking the difference this Sunday. Thank you to everyone who is planning to come down and help us raise vital funds for the Fostering Network. Fingers crossed the weather’s kind!