When they say “it takes a village,” we know they’re right, especially when it comes to foster parent recruitment. Because where is it that we recruit prospective foster parents? In communities and neighborhoods. And, in order to do it well, we need to know these neighborhoods from the inside out. We need to get inside the pulse of the community and look at recruitment of foster families from the perspective of folks living there. Here are some things for your recruitment team to consider:
- What does the community know about its children in foster care? Your team can raise awareness and present the specific facts about the characteristics of children that are coming into care (age, gender, sibling groups, race and ethnicity), what school districts or neighborhoods they’re coming from, and an average length of time regarding how long it’s taking them to get reunified (e.g., a lack of foster homes means kids are leaving the community, their support networks, and having a harder time returning).
- What is the agency’s reputation in this community? Is it positive, negative, or neutral? You may need to do some reputation repair in the community if your agency has had a less-than-ideal relationship with certain individuals, families, or groups. You may need to do your homework and offer some value-added, relationship-repairing activities. Be proactive and don’t wait until something bad happens and you have to implement damage control. Celebrate the successes of children, youth in care, and the good things families are providing children. Consider creating a community newsletter. Share positive articles in the newspaper, or prepare a series of feel-good foster family stories.
- Where do things “hum” in this community? You want to be where families hang out, whether it’s the YMCA, the barber shop, or the community center. Maybe it’s someplace unexpected; such as a ball field, or a senior center. It really doesn’t matter: find out where people gather and show up. Have your strategies ready so you can engage the children as you prepare to talk with the adults.
- Identify who you can partner with among the community leaders. Who are the role models for your community? Who knows how to take great ideas and launch them into action? Develop a partnership with trusted leaders and you’re halfway toward achieving your established recruitment goals.
- What are important things that your community values? For example, a tribal community will most likely value passing down the tribal cultures and traditions to its children. A community that has been experiencing challenges may value providing solid educational opportunities for its children to ensure that they have a chance to reach their desired goals and dreams. What are the values that you can use to “hook” folks and get them thinking about how fostering will provide for children in ways that are meaningful and impactful for your community?
The bottom line is the more you know your community, the better your team will be in developing those relationships and strategies that draw in those families most likely to foster. For more ideas, check out our other
Foster Care Footnotes archives