For the past two years the Fostering Network, together with three consortia of local councils and independent fostering services, has been examining how to best to recruit and retain foster carers.
Now the key lessons from this Department for Education-funded project have been brought together in a collection of case studies called Supporting Fostering Services to Recruit and Retain Foster Carers.
Here, the Fostering Network’s recruitment and retention consultant James Foyle picks eight of the report’s best tips for successfully attracting foster carers.
1. Do a need analysis
The foundation for all recruitment activity is understanding your service’s starting position to inform the recruitment objectives.
2. Conduct an external analysis
Assess whether other fostering services in the area have vacancies your service can utilise as well as identifying their recruitment activity and the level of support they offered compared to your own service.
3. Consider what your service offers
Understand and promote why an individual would choose to foster with your service above others. Understand what motivates people to foster and don’t judge others by your own values. The Fostering Network’s report Why Foster Carers Care can provide more insight into this.
4. Assess how you structure your service to maximise the ‘customer experience’
Ask how prospective foster carers can make an enquiry. Who do they interact with within the service? Is there sufficient resource to give them the support and communication throughout the process they need?
5. Create a recruitment campaign in consultation with foster carers
Existing foster carers are one of a service’s most valuable resources. Word of mouth remains one of the most successful tactics for recruiting and retaining new foster carers.
6. Target messaging to attract the right people
Ensure quality over quantity in enquiries received by reflecting the needs of the service consistently across all marketing literature, including both on and offline.
7. Make sure every member of the fostering team supports the recruitment campaign
Everyone in the fostering service is either directly or indirectly responsible for recruiting foster carers and representing the service’s values.
8. Communicate consistently and in a timely manner
The journey from enquiry to approval can take an average of nine months. Identifying ways to maintain communication – such as attending training, support groups, events or through newsletters or emails – will ensure a higher conversion of enquiries that achieve approval.