Recruiting foster carers - ideas from practice
The use of word of mouth by existing foster carers as recruiters, and local campaigns, has been supported by:
- SOUTHAMPTON, which pays foster carers £20 for introducing a potential foster carer and a further £200 once they have been approved and a child has been placed with them.
- CHRYSALIS CARE, which pays foster carers £500 for each new approved carer they have introduced to the agency. CHRYSALIS CARE have also engaged in the SKILLS FOR CARE Care Ambassadors scheme, with two foster carers who are level three qualified and highly experienced, now fully trained to visit educational institutions to promote the professional field.
- WOODSIDE, which pays the introducing foster carer £200 once a child has been placed.
- KINGSTON, which places advertisements for foster carers in the jobs column of the local press.
- FOSTERING PEOPLE, which also does this and specifies the amount paid in fees to foster carers in order to appeal to working people, who may consider fostering as an alternative job.
- Attracting and Keeping Carers is a project managed by the FOSTERING NETWORK, and funded by the Department for Education and Skills. It explores good and innovative practice in both the recruitment and retention of foster carers amongst fostering services. The project focuses on supporting the development of local capacity in the recruitment and retention of foster carers and facilitating the sharing of good and innovative practice.a href="http://www.fostering.net/england/akc.php">To find out more click here.
- DUDLEY, which uses the local Training and Enterprise Council.
- READING, which includes a publicity leaflet with every council tax bill.
- ESSEX, a beacon council for adoption, has applied the lessons learned from developing adoption services to its fostering services. It provides a free phone number for callers interested in fostering, and social workers try to be as informative as possible in these in-depth phone calls. Explanation about suitability, covering topics such as health and criminal records, as well as full information about fostering, is given, in order to minimise the time taken in subsequent and time-consuming activities such as home visits. Information packs are sent out afterwards. As a result referrals to assessing social workers are more productive.
- CHESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has re-launched its website with the aim of promoting the image of fostering and to improve recruitment of foster carers and adopters. It challenges stereotyped images of fostering and, based on research with existing foster carers, uses strong headlines and images. Cheshire has also produced a CD ROM and electronic postcards for the same purpose. The website also has a password protected section, available only to Cheshire’s approved foster carers and adopters, which is being developed to provide useful information about policies and procedures, events and training material, useful forms, contact details for staff, a message board facility, and profiles of children who are waiting for placements.
- ENFIELD produced a four-page special about fostering for the free local magazine.
- BIRMINGHAM’s fostering agency has opened a recruitment centre in the heart of the city. 'The shop’ handles personal callers and telephone enquiries from the general public about fostering. Staff members are available during usual working hours, maintaining a presence when the city is at its busiest - including late opening on Thursday evenings and on Saturday mornings.
- This innovation, whilst not new (GREENWICH, for example, has used a similar approach), gives high public visibility to BIRMINGHAM’s fostering service and its need for more carers.
- COMMUNITY FOSTER CARE, an independent fostering provider in GLOUCESTER, has an innovative approach to the recruitment of carers. Potential fostering families are targeted from the Gloucestershire area, including socially and economically disadvantaged areas and account for around three quarters of their existing carers. This approach brings social and economic regeneration to the area, and jobs and training for many previously socially excluded people, as well as ensuring children remain in their local environment. The agency is a registered charity and was a Social Enterprise of the Year award winner in 2002.
- One agency in the voluntary sector - TAITH NEWYDD, Newport NCH - obtained a grant from the European Social Fund to support a foster carer recruitment campaign. This funding and its application were particularly innovative, and the fund was awarded for the development of employment opportunities throughout Wales. Taith Newydd emphasised fostering as a possible career for users of National Children’s Homes family centres in parts of Wales where there were few foster carers available to look after local children. This recruitment approach therefore brought together two messages: firstly, the importance of local people fostering local children and secondly, the potential of fostering as a career. There has been a very good response, and as a result the agency has made a further application for European Union funding.