As we looked at Wisconsin’s data on kids coming into care and foster family characteristics during the Recruitment Series, we noticed a common discrepancy. While the kids being placed were from different ethnicities and backgrounds, foster families tended to be much more homogeneous. When looking at your agency’s data, you may want to examine whether your pool of foster families is at least somewhat diverse compared to the kids you have coming into care.
There are real advantages to thinking about diversity when developing your recruitment strategies:
- Kids may have more placement stability when placed initially in homes that have similarities to their individual characteristics.
- Kids may be more likely to be placed near their home schools and communities.
- Permanency may be more viable when you have families who are able to meet the needs of the specific children you have coming into care and who can’t return home.
The following is a sampling of the data you may want to gather on the various characteristics of the children and families your agency serves, as well as in your foster families:
- Sibling group membership
- Special needs
- Primary language
- Sexual orientation and gender identity
- People with disabilities
- Location—urban, suburban, rural
Once you’ve gathered this information, it may help to think about not only how to recruit foster families to serve children and youth with these characteristics, but also how your agency will be supporting and developing these foster families. Being aware of the characteristics unique to these different families will be an asset when it comes to retaining your diverse pool of foster families. Of course, each child and family is still unique and needs to be engaged with that in mind.
So, how can you go about recruiting for more diverse families?
- Collaborate with the partners in your community that represent the groups your kids are being placed from.
- Train staff to be culturally competent and supportive of the families that represent the diverse characteristics in your community.
- Develop existing homes to meet the needs of kids with, for example, special needs or kids from sibling groups.
- Design your messaging to target those groups you are recruiting for. Studies have shown that ads targeting families of color will also draw in Caucasian families, whereas the reverse scenario is not the case.