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Family and Children's
Resource Program

Vol. 22, No. 3
June 2017

Suggestions and Lessons Learned from a (Relatively) New Recruiter
A Conversation with Catawba County's Megan Burns

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
Like other recruiters, Megan understands that her success depends in part on constantly getting the message out. It's really true what they say: many families think about becoming a foster parent for years before calling. First they see an advertisement. Then they hear about it on the radio. Then they listen to a presentation at church. Finally, they call.

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
Most faiths encourage believers to do what they can to help children. Many churches also want a way to give back to the community, so they jump at the opportunity when approached.

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.

Megan's message for those new to recruiting is: "It gets easier!" She says the first year on the job took intense effort to seek out referral sources and community partners to support resource parents. Now she coordinates two or three recruitment- or support-focused events a month without having to seek those events out, because the community calls her.

Supporting Families
Megan emphasizes supporting the resource parents you have. Her agency does this in many ways, including:

  • Maintaining a donation "closet" to help with needs for kids entering care for the first time;
  • Using an email listserv to seek child specific donations when needed (e.g., a dresser or soccer cleats);
  • Hosting a monthly support group open to all resource parents in the area, even those supervised by other agencies; and
  • Coordinating monthly events, such as a "parents' night out" and family-friendly activities.

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.

Kinship Families
Whether or not they are licensed foster families, kin caregivers are essential. Indeed, at the end of April 2017, 25% of children in DSS custody in North Carolina were placed with a relative (Duncan, 2017).

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;

Coming Soon: DRR Calls!

In October 2017, NC Kids will start facilitating quarterly DRR calls. Like the Division's Staying Connected calls, DRR calls will be a peer-to-peer forum featuring information sharing, special presenters, updates, and more. These calls are a direct response to requests from recruitment professionals statewide, who say they need more ways to connect with and support one another.