Pioneering foster carers lead the way

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More than four out of five newly approved foster carers hold “pioneer” values, compared to just one in four of the general population, according to new research released this week by the UK’s leading fostering charity, The Fostering Network.

Why foster carers care: part 2, produced by The Fostering Network in partnership with consultancy iMPOWER as part of the Department for Education funded project to support fostering services to recruit more foster carers, uses a system for identifying individuals’ values in order to explore in depth the actions and attitudes of foster carers.

Using this Values Modes™ approach, the population of newly approved foster carers was found to be:

81 per cent pioneer: Typical pioneer characteristics are that they try to understand the big picture; they’re concerned about the environment, society, world poverty, and so on; they’re always looking for new questions and answers and hold a strong internal sense of what is right and what is wrong;  they’re self-assured and sense of self-agency; pioneers are generally positive about change, if it seems worthwhile, and they’re cautiously optimistic about the future.

16 per cent prospector: Typical prospector characteristics are that they are success oriented and want to ‘be the best’ at what they are doing; they welcome opportunities to show their abilities and take great pleasure in recognition and reward; they look to maximise opportunities and will take opportunities for advancement and professional networking; they like new ideas and are generally optimistic about the future.

Three per cent settler:  Typical settler characteristics are the need for safety, security and belonging; family, friends and home are very important to them, as are tradition and structure; they prefer things to be ‘normal’ and are naturally conservative (with a small ‘c’); they are wary of change, especially for its own sake and prefer regular and routine situations.

The importance of identifying values

Identifying the values of foster carers can help fostering services understand why people make the decision to care for other children. This in turn can help services to find the best way of engaging existing foster carers through support and supervision, and can also assist them in targeting their recruitment message to reach different members of the community.

For example, pioneers have a strong desire for fairness and a keen sense of what is right or wrong. Being treated fairly and being involved in decision making are very important to pioneers. This knowledge should prompt fostering services to consult with and engage their current foster carers, while understanding that pioneers will be the first to respond to what they see as a moral call to action should also help fostering services to shape their recruitment messages when they are targeting more pioneers. In contrast, prospectors are more driven by status and ambition, while settlers are focused on home and family. Each group will respond to a different approach.

James Foyle, foster carer recruitment and retention consultant for The Fostering Network and author of the research, said: “Around 7,200 foster carers have been approved in each of the past two years, demonstrating the success of fostering services’ recruitment initiatives across the country. This success should mean wider placement choice so that more children and young people can find the right home and family at the first time of asking.

“But greater focus is needed on the utilisation of foster carers, as well as an onus on recruiting for specific groups of children. As the first Why foster carers care report identified, understanding and applying the Values Modes™ theory can improve all fostering services’ recruitment and retention performance.”

In addition to identifying the values of foster carers approved since April 2013, the survey also sought information on the key motivations for applying to foster. Support available and peer recommendations were identified as two of the primary motivators for selecting a fostering service, while money was not an important factor in the decision to foster for almost half of new foster carers.

You can download the Why foster carers care: part 2 report here.