Has your recruitment team examined your agency’s response system? The way you respond to prospective foster families from first contact, to licensing, all the way to when they leave fostering can be indicative of an agency’s overall recruitment success.

Perhaps begin by looking at your initial connection or contact with prospective foster parents. Here are a few ideas to consider when thinking about improving your agency’s overall response:

Point of First Contact—First Impressions Do Matter
  • From the very first contact, is the prospective family getting the best first impression of your agency and how it interacts with families?
  • Your response to that initial call, email, or sign-up at a recruitment event should be timely, even if you know the licensing process will be delayed.
  • Have you included experienced foster families (Foster Parent Champions) in designing how this first contact should look?  

Make your Info Sessions Impactful
  • Have a regular schedule of information sessions on the calendar. Prospective families respond best when your agency engages with them quickly after their initial contact.
  • Make the times and location for information sessions as convenient as possible.
  • Provide child care; if at all possible.
  • Include experienced foster parents in these sessions.
  • Have snacks/refreshments available.
  • Inform parents about data around the specific needs of the children or youth coming into care.
  • Use this opportunity to educate families about how fostering should focus on the needs of children and their families.
  • If some families decide they aren’t ready to get licensed, you can provide information to them about considering to be a respite home resource, or serving in some other capacity that is beneficial to the families your agency supports.

Support and Development of Foster Families Begins at the Initial Contact
  • Even if you can’t begin the licensing process right away, keep the new recruits engaged by having your Foster Parent Champions connect with them. They can answer questions, troubleshoot the application process, or just chat about fostering.
  • Follow up with families who are lagging behind or who drop out during the application process. It’s often a simple problem that you can help solve to get them back on track.
  • Be aware of common barriers to licensing; so that solutions can be offered.

Engage with your prospective families using a customer service approach, and treat them like gold! An effective response system equals recruitment (and retention) success. For more ideas about effective response systems all the way from first contact to exiting the foster care program, visit “Is Your Response System Family-Friendly?” at the NRCDR website.

A few other web resources: