22, No. 3
Suggestions and Lessons Learned from a (Relatively) New Recruiter
Recruiting and retaining resource families is a critical but sometimes lonely job. There are 183 child-placing agencies in the state, but the people who bear primary responsibility for attracting and supporting families for children in foster care get few opportunities to share their experiences and learn from one another. With this in mind, Practice Notes contacted Megan Burns, Foster Parent Recruiter and Trainer at Catawba County DSS. When Megan stepped into her job in 2014, she was new to recruiting. We spoke with her to find out what she's learned since then and what recruitment and retention look like in her county.
Consistently Getting the Word Out Is Key
For Megan, getting the word out includes presentations and booths at community events and for civic and religious groups. In her experience the top three places for referrals are: (1) word of mouth from current foster/adoptive families, (2) churches, and (3) her agency's website.
But Megan's clear that recruiting is only part of the equation. As she puts it, "If you're going to recruit, you have to retain!" Supporting current families and making sure they are satisfied with the support your agency provides is crucial if you want new families to come on board.
Partnering with Churches
To build relationships with a wide array of faiths and denominations, Megan sought introductions. For example, a co-worker who is Hmong introduced her to her church, and some of her agency's African-American board members introduced her to theirs.
Megan found not all churches were comfortable having her share information in person, but they were willing to make announcements during services or include information in their bulletins or newsletters. This year she asked almost 300 churches to spread the word about the need for foster and adoptive parents on "Foster Care Sunday," which is the third Sunday in May.
Catawba also requires foster families it supervises to take the Annie E. Casey Foundation-sponsored training Attachment, Regulation, and Competency (ARC). Families rate this training highly on satisfaction surveys and report it helps them respond more effectively to children's negative behaviors. Data on whether ARC training improves placement stability is being gathered and will be reported at the end of the grant period.
Catawba DSS has an entire unit dedicated to ensuring kin get the support they need. When relatives are being considered as a possible placement for a child, the worker who does the home study becomes the family's Kinship Support worker if the child is placed with them.
Catawba's Kinship Support workers visit kin caregivers at least once a month and can accompany them to important meetings, such as court dates. Catawba also strongly encourages all kinship families to go through TIPS-MAPP and become licensed. Licensure helps reduce the financial burden some kin families feel, and the training helps equip them to handle the challenges of their role.
Questions for Megan? She can be reached at 828/695-4553; MBurns@CatawbaCountyNC.gov.