National Foster Care Network

Building Teams That Care

  Just some brainstorming:
Jacob R. Sprouse, Jr.

Turning Around an Image--and Reality . .
Both government and non-profit child placing agencies tend to face two similar realities:
(1) they are viewed by John Q. Public as large, remote and defused bureaucracies, and,
(2) telephone contacts leave the caller bewildered at the lack of knowledge by the receptionist, difficulty in getting the right person on the telephone and the seeming impersonal, inattentive attitude of a human service agency.
Before you garner any success at foster home recruitment you may need to invest in a personal growth program: packaging and selling your agency and its programs to your community at large, and, professionalizing and humanizing your inquiry reception and follow-up. They won't sign on if your are a stranger, and, they won't follow through if you appear disinterested.

Farming a neighborhood . .
Develop a specialized newsletter to civic and social groups, local churches, business or trade groups and larger employers, professional groups such as teachers, nurses, etc., sell your agency--programs and needs.

Become a cause . .
Focus the recruitment on the most pressing community need; speaking before local groups, responding to community inquiries--even on tangential topics;

Niche marketing . .
Develop a mailing list of trade, business and social\civic group newsletters within the community; specialized a letter to the editor campaign of providing a series of human interest stories all focusing on the need and the opportunities to help community and youth;

Specialize, Specialize, Specialize . .
Since your objective is to interest folk who are interested in parenting and helping other people's children, then go for those folk who by profession or advocation are already interested-- teachers and coaches, youth group leaders, youth recreational leaders, all company-civic group sponsored youth activity facilitators, etc.;

Simple Integrated Marketing . . .
As you know, your current foster homes are your best recruiters (and equally true, a disgruntled current or retired foster home is your single greatest competitor for new homes). Develop and produce individual foster family home recruitment kits--brochures, informative handouts [about child in need statistics, support services offered to foster families by the agency--training, respite, sponsored activities, etc.] personalized business cards, note cards for follow-up contacts, and so on. Present a training on One on One Recruitment for your interested foster parents - give them their kits and engage. Offer incentives for home referrals, or a cash bounty for homes recruited and approved. Have the program self-sustaining with agency staff supervision.

Action Agenda: Building a Database . .
So, you ask each of your foster families and your agency staff folk to give you two names of people that they know who are engaged in a child\youth focused occupation or activity. Remember, there are dozens of positive and supportive activities for your agency's foster home program that do not involve accepting placements. Mine your database: develop and distribute your wish list, gear a specific recruitment program for the database, ask the database for additional referrals to add to the database, personalize your program with frequent contacts-such as a specialized newsletter-with your database--truth is, your best foot forward in your community are the folk in your community. What, your agency does not have time or resources to manage this project? So, you ask your foster families: who has a computer and can spare two hours a week?

Don't Recruit ~ Help Folk Join . .
Nothing sells like success--certainly not original, but 'tis true even for foster family recruitment. Potential families may know they want infants, or toddlers, or, more frequently, that they don't want teenagers. Selling your program as opposed to a particular child or age group offers your potential families a larger comfort zone as they approach the decision to join your program as a fostering family. Certainly, be truthful in presenting the numbers and placement needs of the agency - if homes infants are not in demand, let the stats speak for you. The opportunities for the family to expand their interests and work with different age groups and particular needs may only be actualized if they join in the first place. If you insist on telling them what they want they will join something else.

Relationship Selling . .
Let's face it: what you are about is selling relationships. But don't be short-sighted--you should be selling two relationships: that of the foster family and the child placed in their care and the relationship between the foster family and the agency. The first is obvious, the second is often presumed but frequently mythical. You need to clearly define and package the agency's support, technical assistance and accessibility in an easy-to-read reference guide that provides the potential foster family a what's what of what can be expected from the agency. Tough and demanding tasks are made easier when there is a support relationship with the agency. Having difficulty in crafting a statement of the agency's support for your foster families? Then, any wonder you have difficulty in recruiting and maintaining families?

Action Agenda: Selling Your Agency . .
As Albert Einstein so eloquently put it: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a new result." If your agency has a low profile, a negative profile or even a no profile then get out there and sell, sell, sell (actually, educate, educate, educate). You develop and deploy a straight forward public education project. Lots of options: speakers bureau; pubic seminars about your agency and programs--with church and civic groups; human interest programming in the papers, on radio and TV . . . the objective it to create a positive profile to which folk respond during your recruitment camp. Tough to have folk join and be supportive when they don't know who or what you are. Chicken and egg question, true--but, when's the last time you gave support of any kind to an activity about which you knew little or nothing?

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