Foster carer exit interviews

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We have created an exit interview toolkit for fostering services to capture all of the reasons why foster carers leave their services. Free to download for members, the information captured can then be used by the service to improve practice and inform foster carer retention and recruitment strategies. 

The premise of an exit interview is straightforward – to provide an employee leaving an organisation with the opportunity to feedback on their experience. This information can then be used to inform changes in systems and processes to improve the experience of other employees.

There are though conflicting views on their value. Some consider them a waste of time, the employee has already ‘checked out’ so won’t have anything to offer. Others think it will be a diatribe on a colleague or manager against whom they have a grudge. But what if they have a point? What if the colleague is not performing? How can an organisation support a former employee to express their views constructively?

Many fostering services across the UK have an exit interview process and, for some, they prove quite effective. Our foster carer exit interview project found examples of fostering services which managed to change the mind of foster carers thinking of leaving and convince them, with the addition of extra support, to stay. Others have a process of conducting an exit interview but couldn’t demonstrate what happened to the information gathered – the worst-case scenario. Others referenced a lack of ownership and ultimately time to routinely carry out exit interviews with foster carers. But clearly those services that make the time and are faithful to the process are seeing results.

Timing of the exit interview can be critical. Our work with foster carers through focus groups and workshops, who unanimously agreed that exit interviews are valuable, found that the best results could be gained by implementing a two-stage process. The first interview should be face-to-face with an independent person in a location agreed between the parties, immediately after the decision has been made to leave. This allows for the initial response and rationale to be shared. Foster carers should then be offered the opportunity to reflect on this interview four to six weeks after to elaborate on any of their points, introduce new issues or reframe some statements that may have been shared in the heat of the moment.

As our foster carer values research demonstrated, foster carers want to make a difference, want to do all they can for the children they look after and are altruistic in their outlook to make the system better for future generations. They may be leaving as a result of an allegation or other distressing reasons, but each should be given the opportunity to share their experience.

To support fostering services to integrate foster carer exit interviews into their practice, we have developed an exit interview toolkit, free for our members to download. The toolkit contains a guide for using it, a guide for conducting an exit interview, information for foster carers leaving their fostering services and a simple data collection tool to keep track of all the information gathered to feed into planning cycles and foster carer retention strategy development.

What value do you as an individual place on exit interviews? Does this tally with your employer? Do you have any success stories to share as a result of an exit interview? We’d love to hear from you.