National Foster Care Network

Building Teams That Care

  A Starting Point
Jacob R. Sprouse, Jr.

Every system offers resistance to new ideas, new efforts or new programming. A great starting point in analyzing your agency's response to previous foster and adoptive recruitment efforts and predicting support for your new endeavor is to apply the don't ask why, ask why not test. The test may be adapted to any number of delivery systems: interview, individual questionnaire, group sessions or even bulletin board notices. The object being to gather as much information you can about the barriers you face before you face them.

The following list certainly is not exhaustive but offers a useful and lighthearted tool to survey your peers and ferret out preconceived notions as to why your ideas won't work, benchmark specific resistance you can expect in your recruitment programing and illuminate some of the hidden agenda items at work within your agency.

Frame your approach by asking recipients to check off the answers they most often hear themselves saying when ask to solve a problem, support a project or join in a project.

Good idea, not practical.
We do alright with what we have.
Let's give that some more thought.
We did that years ago.
Not in our agency.
Not in this department.
Has anyone else tried this?
Never be tried before.
Been through this before.
You know, old dog new tricks. No way.
Why don't you write that up.
What do other agencies do?
I don't like the idea.
The administration will not agree.
Why change what we are doing?
We don't have the authority.
We've never done anything like this before.
We don't have time.
Too radical.
I?m too busy.
Can't change tradition.
That's not my job.
That's beyond our control.
Materials will cost too much.
Our agency is different.
We've tried that before.

Add your own excuses to the list; make a checklist questionnaire - give your peers and associates a free pen (colored ink even) for completing the form , then, inventory the results. Even this tongue-in-cheek approach will yield truthful results. Remember, humor as a way of disarming even the most ardent opposition.

With information about the reasons why not in hand you may then tackle the task of educating your team members about the how to of your recruitment programing.

Building Your Recruitment Team

Your team also comes with some preconceived, group barriers you'll need to overcome as you attempt to promote the team skills needed to implement your recruitment action plan. The following describes three sets of barriers to skills transfer with your team members.

Team-Member Centered Barriers

1. Team-Members may not see any payoff for using the skills. For Team-Members to use the skills you are promoting they must see that the advantages of doing it your way out weigh the disadvantages.
2. Team-Members disagree with the concepts and principles of the program.
3. Team-Members initially experience failure when using the skills - they must experience success if you expect them to sustain their participation.
4. Team-Members may not have the self-confidence to use some of the skills inherent in your programing; try to match tasks to talent, especially in the initial stages of implementation.
5. Team-Members may not see an immediate need for the skills you are attempting to develop; coordinate new skills with new programing to reduce lag time.
6. Team-Members may not be aware that they are doing good--they are more likely to be enthusiastic and supportive when the feedback acknowledges the quality of their participation.

Leader-Centered Barriers

1. You may not be the most positive role model; do you practice what you preach? Don't expect Team-Members to do if you do otherwise.
2. Are you a good coach? Your Team-Members will respond as a team directly proportional to your skills as a team coach.

Agency-Centered Barriers

1. Negative balance of consequences -- Team-Members will not use the program skills if the agency does not value those skills.
2. Project task interference -- Team-Members will defer from your project if the agency impedes participation through time, policies, procedures or work environment constraints.
2. No positive feedback -- Team-Members will not use new skills and support the program if the agency does not specifically support and honor their participation.

As with the individual barriers, group barriers may be overcome with planing and attention to detail when implementing your recruitment action plan.

(C) 2017, Jacob R. Sprouse, Jr.
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American Foster Care Resources, Inc.