initial home visits and assessing new foster families, they might also co-deliver
The Skills to
courses, so can provide a lot of useful information about recent and current
Encouraging supervising social workers to feed back to the recruitment team their experiences of
new recruits and the foster carers they supervise can also be very enlightening and help influence
priorities for the recruitment strategy.
Children’s social workers should also be consulted and encouraged to be involved in information
sessions, providing feedback on the use of the current pool of foster carers and sharing success
stories for foster families.
Marketing and PR team
This is particularly vital if the post responsible for recruitment has little or no previous experience
in these areas. Some fostering services work with their in-house team to develop marketing and
promotional materials. It is also beneficial to make use of the expertise of the press team as
communications professionals. They have experience and skills that social work staff might not,
such as identifying news hooks, seeing promotional opportunities in recent changes within the
service or creating responses to developments at a national level. They might already have strong
contacts with local newspapers and radio stations and ideas about what else is happening in the
area on which fostering promotion could ‘piggy back’.
The downside is that there is sometimes not capacity internally within a local authority to support
fostering services with their recruitment activity. Demonstrating how a successful working
relationship would be beneficial to the whole organisation in the recruitment strategy could help
influence this and make available much needed resources.
Making good use of administrative support and having sufficient staff levels to support all stages
of recruitment are essential. Support staff can field initial enquiries, arrange mailings, catalogue
and monitor all data, organise events and support assessors with some aspects of assessments,
such as the very time consuming task of chasing up CRB checks and references.
Children and young people
A surprisingly small number of fostering services work with children and young people to help
with the recruitment of foster carers. For those fostering services which do, the input of both the
sons and daughters of foster carers and looked-after children has been invaluable.
Working closely with and involving the panel in recruitment can have a significant effect. They can
offer advice and feedback about what is and is not working and where they see a real need to
recruit more foster carers. In addition they can raise any concerns they have over the standard of
new foster carers being assessed for approval, or when reviewing current foster carers’ approval
Human resources department
Approved foster carers are self employed but it will still be useful and advisable to consult with
the HR department to seek advice on recruitment practices and procedures. When targeting
prospective foster carers you are ultimately asking them to take on a new ‘job’ and therefore the
role should have the same clear job description and person specification as any other position in
the fostering service. The fostering service should also follow organisation wide recruitment
practices and ensure that the process is open to all with no discriminatory practices.
All elected members have a responsibility as corporate parents to the children coming into their
care. Councillors can be very useful to fostering services if they understand the role they play in
improving the lives of looked-after children and young people.
Councillors can be particularly useful for attracting the media, simply by attending a balloon
launch, for example, or offering a quote for a press release. Many fostering services hold award
ceremonies for their foster carers and elected members or mayors are invited to give awards and
meet and celebrate their foster carers.
Director of children’s services
Again, the directors of children’s services have a role as corporate parents. They take personal
responsibility on behalf of the local authority for improving the full range of support offered to the
children in and leaving care.
With the development of Children’s Trusts it is important that directors are kept informed of the
work of the fostering service and what is being done to improve standards for children in care. A
multi-service approach within the council should enable better co-operation and communication
across the wide variety of services looked-after children and young people need.
Who does what at which stage?
If a fostering service is serious about managing a rise in enquiries and processing applications
swiftly and efficiently they need to ensure that sufficient resources are afforded to the task.
Depending on the size of a fostering service a considerable number of people could be
participating in or responsible for many of the stages of recruitment.
Posts and responsibilities
Planning and resources The whole fostering service including foster carers should be
consulted, and involved where appropriate, to gather a thorough
understanding of the needs of the fostering service, ability to offer
placement choice and the needs of looked-after children and young
Senior management need to be briefed and informed to help allocate
additional resources if required, based on sound evidence from a
thorough audit and fully prepared strategy.
The whole fostering service can play a role in promoting the need for
foster carers, especially current foster carers and their sons and
daughters, as well as care experienced young people.
Enquiry officer or other designated post
Social workers (on duty desk or other)
and initial visits
Sons and daughters of foster carers
Care experienced young people
Supporting through the
Assessing social workers
Foster carers – a number of fostering services have established
buddying or mentoring schemes which aim to match foster carers
with applicants to support them through the recruitment process –
this can be beneficial as not only will an experienced/impartial
person be available to talk through the many issues raised
throughout, but they will also be able to keep people engaged during
the sometimes lengthy process
Trainers – delivering
The Skills to Foster
requires two trained and
experienced trainers, one of whom should be a foster carer.
Fostering services have developed a range of different models for
how they deliver the training.
Assessing social worker – good practice recommends that assessing
social workers are allocated prior to pre-approval training
commencing. This enables the trainers to feed back to the named
social worker what they have observed of the applicants, gives the
opportunity to view the applicants taking part in the assessment and
enables the assessor to follow up on issues raised in the training.
Care experienced young people – fostering services with established
groups for care experienced young people have looked at how they
can be involved in this part of the process. Some have developed
parts of the training course that can be delivered by young people or
have allocated the time for presentations and opportunities for
applicants to meet with them during the course.
To find out more about establishing and running a peer mentoring scheme see Newstone, S
(The Fostering Network, 2008)
Sons and daughters of foster carers – as well as the sons and
daughters of foster carers being provided training (a dedicated
module forms part of
The Skills to Foster
), asking those whose
parents already foster to share their experiences as part of the
training programme is worthwhile.
Assessing social worker – having sufficient levels of staff with time
to dedicate to assessments is really important. Fostering services
use a range of different models to manage this part of the process,
such as a dedicated team, supervising social workers being allocated,
or independent social workers or sessional workers being
Foster carers – applicants linked to a mentor or buddy are able to
talk about issues raised, which they can find really helpful and
Administrative staff – arranging meetings, gaining references and
chasing up CRB checks can be very time consuming and could be
managed by a member of the fostering service’s support team.
Foster carers – if the prospective foster family has been provided
with a buddy then they could go along to the panel meeting to offer
Assessing social worker – keeping the applicants clear about
timescales and being available to accompany them to the panel
meeting offers a great deal of reassurance.
Supervising social worker – if this is a different person to the
member of staff carrying out the assessment then a well supported
transition needs to take place, as it is likely during the assessment
process the new foster family will have developed a relationship with
the assessing social worker.
Foster carers – if the applicant did not have a buddy or mentor
allocated to them during the assessment process, then receiving
support from a peer can make all the difference in their first year of
fostering and throughout their careers.
85 per cent of
had a written
3. The recruitment strategy – getting it right
All fostering services need a strategy for the recruitment of foster carers.
Without a comprehensive strategy they will be less likely to recruit the type
of foster carers required to meet the needs of looked-after children and
young people. A lot of information needs to go into a recruitment strategy to
help the service focus on and plan their activities.
How big should a recruitment strategy be?
Fostering services’ recruitment strategies vary hugely. They can cover a wide range of areas, but
tend to fall within four basic models:
1. A comprehensive long-term plan that predicts trends in the looked-after population and has
clear and specific targets for the recruitment of new fostering households and commissioning
of placements from independent fostering providers.
2. A 12-month plan of activity with clear timescales for promotional activity linked to information
The Skills to Foster
training, availability of assessing social workers and fostering
3. A marketing plan with activities scheduled throughout the year and systems in place to
monitor and evaluate achievements.
4. A fostering service-wide strategy with clear allocation of responsibilities to teams and
Whichever model is preferred, and depending on the size of the fostering service and the
resources available, every fostering service should consider incorporating the following:
Information about the fostering services resources and performance – including an analysis
of the looked-after population and the current availability of fostering households. Consider
also including an analysis of neighbouring fostering services and employers which may be
direct competition. Carry out a full profile of the area.
Plan of what is to be achieved – including a recruitment target, methods to promote the need
for foster carers, an allocated budget and clear breakdown of staff involved and their
Method of review – implementing a system to monitor and evaluate activity.
What is really important is that one post takes responsibility for overseeing the recruitment
strategy and monitoring and evaluating successes throughout the year, and determining whether
or not the fostering service is on track to achieve its set goals and targets.
How do you decide what should really be done?
Following the completion of a full audit of the fostering service (as detailed in chapter 4), it will be
possible to set clear objectives for the recruitment strategy. The fostering service will need to be
clear about how this is going to be achieved and the ways in which the fostering service will
monitor its activity and evaluate annually. A word of caution is required here as it is rare that a
fostering service will begin to see significant improvements within the first 12 months of
implementing a new strategy. A longer view is required, with improvements measured over at
least three years to take account of the lengthy approval process.
1. Set objectives
Identifying a recruitment target is crucial. Further objectives could include generating an
increase in the number of initial enquiries or improving the conversion rate of initial
enquiries to approved fostering households.
2. Identify successful methods to attract people
Carry out a full review of how you have promoted your need for foster carers in the past.
This should include a review of all previous marketing activity – including materials,
activity, timescales and location, and analysing data on:
Number of enquiries – try collecting and monitoring on a monthly basis and
identifying trends such as a rise in enquiries following a radio advertisement or
article in a newspaper.
Source of enquiries – to make analysing easier set up a system to monitor
enquiries based on a range of fixed criteria (gathering further information
separately if possible). If your fostering service is using a lot of different locations or
media outlets to promote need, then ask enquirers exactly which advertisement
they saw or heard, the newspaper they were reading or who they had been talking
to (see chapter 5 for methods that work).
People rarely make a spur of the moment decision to foster so it is useful to hear how long
it took them to enquire and what was their final motivation – this might be more of a
personal one than anything your fostering service has done.
If this information has not been collected, assemble a small group of colleagues including
foster carers to carry out a SWOT analysis of your recent foster carer recruitment activity.
This will help gather anecdotal evidence from staff and identify areas where better
monitoring should be put in place as well as identify priorities for next steps and activity.
SWOT is the acronym of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It is a simple
technique used to review current procedures, plans or strategies and can help identify
ways to solve problems and decide on next steps for a fostering service. A SWOT analysis
for a fostering service’s recruitment strategy could look like this:
Dedicated post for the recruitment of
Competitive fees for foster carers
Active foster care association heavily
involved in recruitment activities
Central office location
New promotional materials
Relationship with local football club
supporting year round promotion
Dedicated post is only part time – two
days per week initial enquiries cannot be
Limited online presence with no
downloads or opportunities to upload
Shortages of qualified social workers to
carry out initial visits and allocate for
Fostering service currently undergoing
Greater emphasis on outreach work with
community organisations and faith
Elected member taking greater interest
in looked-after children and young
Five bordering local authorities all with
larger promotional budgets
Reduction in promotional budget in
upcoming financial year
3. Make use of current foster carers
Meeting with current foster carers to identify their motivations to foster is hugely useful.
Consider carrying out a focus group with current foster carers to find out about their
experiences and consult on new approaches and methods. Establishing an advisory board
of foster carers to input into developments and initiatives could be considered.
4. Find out why people chose not to foster for your service
Re-contacting people who have enquired in the last one to two years to find out about their
experiences, why they chose not to progress with their application and whether they are
still thinking of fostering can be very worthwhile. In 2006-07 the Fostering Network
surveyed over 800 people who had enquired but not proceeded and found that half of them
were still thinking about fostering
It is difficult for people to realise that they could make a great foster carer if they do not
understand what fostering is. Therefore it is important that fostering services find a way to
communicate what the task is and who is needed to sign up. Going out and about and
talking to people at arranged meetings with community groups or on the street can help
you to find out if people are aware of the need for foster carers and what they do. You can
use this information to identify whether a big promotional push has helped raised
awareness in a year or two’s time. Talking to people not involved in fostering and finding
out what misconceptions they hold will help identify messages that need to be dispelled in
your promotional materials.
5. Plan your marketing and set timescales
Review current branding and identity
Fostering services use a variety of methods to attract potential foster carers. These
include advertisements in newspapers and magazines and on radio, the back of buses
Many fostering services mount publicity campaigns, pitching stories about fostering to
their local media. Some organise local events and celebrations of fostering and others
join in larger campaigns such as the Fostering Network’s annual
Foster Care Fortnight
Posters and leaflets may be distributed around the community and fostering service
websites can offer more detailed information. Some fostering services build relationships
within their community by working with faith groups or voluntary and community
Word of mouth is a powerful method of foster carer recruitment
Different methods of publicity have different strengths and weaknesses. A poster might be
the best way to convey a bright, attractive image of the positive aspects of fostering, while
an article in a newspaper could go into some of the complexities of, for example, caring for
teenagers. It is crucial for publicity methods to be chosen as part of a coherent foster
carer recruitment strategy and that thorough monitoring and evaluation should be carried
out to judge each method’s effectiveness.
Managing Initial Enquiries to a Fostering Service
(The Fostering Network, 2007)
Delivering Foster Care
(BAAF, 2000) and
Improving Effectiveness in Foster Care Recruitment
Fostering Network, 2006)
Nearly all fostering
services (97 per cent)
had a plan for their
You might need to consider updating your promotional materials. This can be a costly
exercise. Fostering services tend to refresh their marketing materials every three years
Devise a marketing plan
This can be part of the overall recruitment strategy or a
separate document that details how the fostering service will
go about promoting its need for foster carers over the
coming 12 months. Some fostering services have
implemented plans for longer periods of time such as three
Promotional activities should be linked with plans to run information events and
training courses, so interested people do not have to wait too long to move to the
next step of becoming a foster carer. Based on previous years’ activities a fostering service
should look at predicting numbers and ensuring that adequate resources are available to
support people through the process (see chapter 6 for more details).
The money available to promote the need for foster carers varies tremendously between
fostering services and it is important that you spread what you have to spend across the
full 12 months. Joining in with national campaigns such as
Foster Care Fortnight
Shared Care Week
can be cost effective ways to promote local need. Money should be
allocated to activities which both raise the profile of fostering and also trigger people’s
decision to contact the fostering service.
STEP THREE Develop links with organisations in the area
In addition to wide-spread promotion in a range of outlets, fostering services benefit from
getting the message out to organisations in the area – their current foster carers will
already be active members or have links with many. Taking the time to target community
groups and setting up meetings with representatives from the following can be beneficial:
Council’s information centres
Adult education centres
Voluntary and community organisations
Faith groups and job centres (including recruitment fairs).
Offering to give presentations, provide information for newsletters or attend planned
events can be effective ways to reach new audiences.
Some fostering services work collaboratively with neighbouring fostering services. Linking
together for joint promotional pushes and being up front about particular shortages of
foster families is useful, so you can signpost people to the right fostering service.
For examples of new promotional campaigns see
Attracting and Keeping Carers
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested