Attracting and Keeping Carers - September 2013

You are here

As the new term starts, I’m grateful that I’m beyond the age to be dragged around the shops to pick up new items of uniform, including shoes with enough room to grow into. Or in the latter educational years, packing up the car to be greeted with the bare brick walls of a new university hall, armed with only a familiar duvet cover and a wardrobe of decidedly odd clothes.

This though is the time of a year when a number of fostering services run campaigns to get the newly empty nesters to consider becoming a foster carer. If your service is running such a campaign, get in touch as it would be great to showcase some examples in next month’s edition.

It’s been a slow burn, but the online chat on ‘Barriers to fostering – findings from the Department for Education funded research’ was the best to date, and generated an interesting discussion on an area that wasn’t covered in the report, housing. The original survey focused on those without any pre-conception of fostering, which is likely why the issue of housing didn’t feature. It would though be interesting to see how the barriers of those who have researched fostering and those without any knowledge overlap…

I’ve had a few enquiries recently about recruiting in small BME communities, so this months IN FOCUS will look at some of the key issues involved.

If your fostering service is looking for tips, or has good experience of recruiting in BME communities, please do join in the online chat on Friday 27 September, 2.00-4.00pm.

Myth busting

For a number of fostering services, this summer sounded a busy time attending fêtes, fairs and other events to raise awareness and in the case of Swansea, Action for Children and Leicestershire County Council, bust some myths around fostering.

As we discussed in the online chat last week, there are a number of perceived barriers to becoming a foster carer, and within these there will be some myths as to who can and can’t foster, particularly in some areas of the community. It’s unfortunate the Leicestershire article doesn’t include fostering and adoption in each of the bullets, as it could be interpreted for example that single people can’t foster. 

As well as busting myths through your website, films and printed material, busting a myth a day/week is good, regular content for your social media channels and generate comments and interaction. As in the example above though, be clear to remove any scope for misinterpretation, creating more myths and state skills and qualities needed to foster.

Foster carer Middlesbrough citizen of the year

Congratulations to Middlesbrough foster carer Jane Bailey who has been named Middlesbrough’s citizen of the year

Like a number of foster carers, Jane had a connection with fostering before becoming a foster carer herself, with her mother fostering for 26 years before retiring aged 72.

What stood out for me in this article is that Jane was nominated for the award by her social worker, who heaped praise on her and acknowledged the crucial role she plays. 

Supporting foster carers is clearly one of the key issues for retention, but the perception of support is also critical in recruitment. Word of mouth can either have a significant positive or negative impact on the level of enquiries your service receives, so to be able to substantiate it with positive stories like this can make the difference.

Core Assets football tournament

Fostered children took to the playing field in August to take part in Core Assets’ annual football competition

The event attracted a record 52 teams from across the UK and abroad, bringing looked-after children from all backgrounds together to take part in a fun activity.

Holding an event such as this can work well for all fostering services. It could also be a great activity for Sons and Daughters this October. Your fostering service could also include a variety of activities that everyone can partake in, including perhaps the quintessential egg and spoon race for foster carers and the fostering team…?!

Lincolnshire private fostering week

Private fostering arrangements are often very difficult to identify, not only requiring individuals to voluntarily come forward and to declare it, but also relying on them to be aware that they are part of a private fostering arrangement in the first place.

I received a question on this topic during a recent online chat as to possible methods, and came across Lincolnshire’s Private Fostering Week to raise awareness in the local area. Also consider fellow professional channels, nurseries, children’s centres, schools, health services or community groups and places of worship. Somebody Else’s Child, an annual campaign run by BAAF is another opportunity to encourage people that privately foster to come forward.

Private foster carers are only likely to consider looking after the child within the private fostering arrangement; however they may present the skills and qualities needed to be a foster carer

Should money be a factor?    

As covered in last month’s blog, I was invited to comment on the issue of marketing fostering on the basis of avoiding the ‘bedroom tax’.

I’m surprised I wasn’t able to find more examples of press teams jumping on this to issue a release to offer their fostering service’s position on the subject.
Bradford did so, with the lead Councillor stating, “If money is their only motivation they would not pass the assessment”, but going on to clarify, “If somebody feels they have the right skills and can make a positive contribution in terms of fostering, they will be assessed and supported and evaluated.” 

It is important not to lose sight of the fact that money will be a factor in the majority of potential foster carers’ decision. Foster carers, more than most groups, value fair and equitable processes and will value, at the very least, being informed of the payment structure of your fostering service.

This article almost goes too far the other way on information sharing in the para, “Would-be foster carers need to be visited at home up to eight times at two hours a time by the charity and face a panel of six and provide four referees before they are given the go ahead to look after children.” Although reassuring for the reader, this is a pretty daunting prospect, taken out of context for potential foster carers reading this article. 

IN FOCUS

According to the 2011 Census, 86% of the population of England and Wales identified themselves as having a white background, just over 48 million, meaning 8 million people identify themselves with black minority ethnic (BME) communities. Of course, amongst the White population will be people from European backgrounds, which in themselves will present language and other cultural barriers to overcome.

The graph below illustrates the different demographic make-up of regions, with London unsurprisingly the most diverse region.
 


Source: Census - Office for National Statistics

Even for authorities with relatively small BME communities and limited resources, recruiting sufficient foster carers from diverse sections of the community can be a challenge.

The following are six suggestions to consider when recruiting from BME audiences:

1. Understand the local need

Something we’ve covered before, but a robust needs analysis is key to understanding the current local demography and providing evidence for future trends so that you can be clear what foster carers you are looking to recruit to provide homes for children.

2. Understand the community culture

Not all communities have the same view of family. For example, in some parts of the Asian community, ‘families’ can be extended to the point where non-immediate relatives are brought in and supported. 

This presents both a massive positive and challenge in equal measures. On one hand there may be community members with the potential skills, qualities and caring mentality, but on the other hand, there may be little understanding of the need for foster care and a system of state involvement. 

Talk to the communities you are trying to target, involve them in your decision making processes, invite them to comment and provide feedback.  They may provide some useful insight as to what will and won’t work, which will enhance the chances of your plans succeeding. Local faith groups may also have some invaluable insight. The Evangelical Alliance’s Home for Good campaign aims to educate and mobilise churches across the UK.

3. Address barriers to coming forward

There will be barriers to becoming a foster carer that aren’t specific to BME communities, such as income and housing, but culture and identity will also feature prevalently.

Once you understand the local culture, provide information that addresses concerns and removes the barriers for people to come forward. For example, Gloucestershire have produced a bespoke flyer

Seeding the idea of fostering with a respected member of the community, or having them as an advocate could go a long way in getting more people in their communities to come forward. Ideally don’t refer to BME carers ie ‘We need BME foster carers’ – it’s corporate jargon that your target audience won’t understand. Instead, use imagery and phrasing to illustrate your point.

The issue of a language barrier is complex. Equalities and diversity policies are likely to require those for whom English is a second language to be given an opportunity and supported in their application. However, for those who speak very little if no English, it is debateable as to whether they would adequately perform as per the requirements of a foster carer today, to advocate for the child in their care in a number of key areas, such as education.

4. Is there a business case for extra resource

In larger scale fostering services who need to recruit a significant number of foster carers from minority communities, it’s likely to be more straightforward to present the case to recruit support or ‘field workers’ from the targeted backgrounds to help build the trust and relationship.

Independent fostering providers may work with local authorities with specific requirements to recruit foster carers from a particular ethnic background and specialise in this area.

Even in local authority fostering services with relatively small requirements to recruit BME foster carers, a business case may show that the cost of placing a child externally exceeds that of hiring a field worker with the object to recruit extra foster carers (the cost of the recruitment process will also have to be factored in).

5. Dedicated events

Black History Month in November is one example of a number of existing events and celebrations in BME communities which your service could promote foster care in. 

Alternatively, resource permitting, your fostering service could hold your own event, to which you can invite your local BME communities to attend, as well as local media outlets that target the same communities as your service.

6.Develop a bespoke recruitment strategy

The author of the BAAF Good Practice Guide for recruiting BME foster carers acknowledges that there isn’t a magic formula, more having members of staff who are passionate and understand the respective communities your service is looking to recruit from, as well as the skills and qualities needed to be a foster carer. 

However, armed with information on the local need, the cultural insight, knowledge of the potential barriers, feedback from the respective BME communities, as well as existing information about what works well in targeting foster carers, your service will have sufficient resource to develop a bespoke strategy to recruit from your local BME communities. This live document will provide the framework for every member of the team to engage with, understand the specific requirements and deliver a co-ordinated, considered and hopefully effective recruitment strategy.

PS

Amended guidance for the assessment and approval of foster carers

A number of fostering services are still seeking guidance on the changes to the regulations that came into force in July. 
We’ve created a briefing for members to go alongside the guidance and flow chart from the Department for Education as well as some FAQs.

If your question is still unanswered, please do get in touch and we will provide the answer.

FCF dates

Next year’s Foster Care Fortnight will take place 12-25 May 2014. We are currently working on the theme and headlines to try and tie in our 40th anniversary celebrations. Watch this space.

Sons and daughters

Don’t forget that October is the month we celebrate the crucial role sons and daughters play in the foster family. We’ve produced a toolkit of information to spark ideas on how to celebrate, as well as some templates for thank you cards. There’s also a blogging competition, with three £25 vouchers up for grabs plus a discounted day out on Sunday 6 October to one of three Merlin attractions.

Walk the Difference

Fostering services, their foster carers and their families are invited to join us to walk eight of London’s iconic bridges, and raise money for the Fostering Network at our inaugural Walk the Difference. If your fostering service would like to take part, please contact walkthedifference@fostering.net