Thousands of new foster families are needed every year to care for children who can no longer remain with their own family. Fostering services around the country are continuously seeking motivated and emotionally available individuals, who can offer a warm, caring and inclusive family environment where a child is encouraged to achieve their full potential.
In order to recruit successfully is it is imperative that fostering services gain a real understanding of what motivates an individual to foster, have a financially viable and targeted ongoing recruitment strategy and an efficient method of following up initial enquiries. There are numerous ways in which fostering agencies can promote their organisation and attract potential applicants however, I find the following to be particularly helpful mediums to consider when developing a recruitment campaign:
Word of Mouth
Your current foster carers are your ambassadors. By developing a culture of trust and loyalty within your organisation it is likely these individuals will share their positive experiences with others and encourage like-minded individuals to come forward. Although this method of recruitment doesn’t result in a high number of leads, the applicants who come forward are more likely to fit the foster carer profile.
Tip: Consult and involve your foster carer community when developing your recruitment campaign.
Advertising on social media and networking sites are a good way of reaching a wide audience and can generate large numbers of initial interest. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube offer various ways to advertise. With Facebook, you can advertise through promoted posts, sponsored stories and standard external website adds. YouTube provides branded channels or promoted videos, whilst Twitter offers promoter tweets, trends and accounts.
Tip: Identify ways to maintain communication following a registration of interest (i.e. through newsletters or emails) to increase the number of enquiries that achieve approval.
Shopping Centres / Community Spaces
Shopping centres and community spaces can prove to be successful places for pop-up stands. It is always advisable to visit the proposed space beforehand however, to ensure it is well used by the local residents and the location is in a sensible position. Perhaps think about booking shopping centre space whilst a local festival/fete is underway to further increase throughflow traffic.
Tip: When speaking to the public concentrate on positive messages celebrating your successes with children and young people.
County Pet Shows
Pets are often referred to as being like ‘one of the family’, providing a constant source of love, friendship and fun. County pet shows often attract individuals who are pro-social, altruistic and wish to extend their love beyond their immediate family. This makes large pet shows (i.e. dog days) a good way to promote fostering.
Tip: Draw on your strengths as an agency and acknowledge your competition. You want potential applicants to actively choose to foster with you.
Food and Drink Events
Food and drink festivals attract a wide diversity of people with differing tastes in cuisine and food culture from around the world. Events of this type offer something for everyone and actively encourage people to take their time to browse stalls and talk to vendors.
Tip: Talk about the support your agency can offer foster carers and take time to dispel myths about fostering eligibility that may be preventing individuals from applying.
County shows aim to cater for a large footfall of people from across the local area. These events are well advertised and therefore offer a great opportunity to increase the public’s awareness of fostering. However, trade stands can be expensive so you will need to factor this in to your budget.
Tip: Think about offering practical free gifts (such as sticky notes and pens) as a way of spreading the word.
Festivals can be a further way of increasing your agency presence, but you will need to consider the demographics and whether it’s an opportunity that’s right for you. Stand out from the crowd by using bold colours and eye-catching banners. Don’t be afraid to approach people.
Tip: Invest in good quality recruitment and marketing materials. Bear in mind weight and ease of set up as you may be lifting and carrying these items considerable distances.
Written by Stef Lewis for One Stop Social.
Independent Social Worker (MSW)
Atarah Assessment and Consultancy
Stef Lewis is an experienced social worker, who has had the opportunity to work within numerous early intervention, adoption and fostering teams and is now a well-established independent social worker and fostering panel member. Stef blogs with One Stop Social because she wishes to share her own learning with others
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