Tips for recruiting foster parents

There is definitely an art to recruiting new foster parents. For those who are naturally evangelistic about fostering, talking it up may come easy. But even the most passionate advocate has to keep in mind that everyone is in their own unique season of life. Sharing one’s home and family may not be feasible or even possible for some.

Nevertheless, there are techniques we can all use to get conversations started and guide them in a way that can best inspire individuals who are open to this calling to take that first step to learn more. The following are some suggestions that can be used at events or in personal conversations to communicate that there is a great need for foster parents, and lead people to action if they are so inclined.

Calling the called

First, we should focus on finding and calling the called. By this I mean we should be trying to find families for whom foster parenting is likely to become a passion; a calling to serve children who are in desperate need of a stable, loving family. Our society has plenty of people like this. We just need to go where they are, connect with them, and learn how to inspire them.

We shouldn’t need to sell people on foster parenting who have no natural interest in it. We’ve all experienced the occasional person who runs away at the suggestion of foster parenting, usually with a look of panic in their eyes. Maybe our suggestion was the first time they’ve thought about it, and maybe it will be pivotal in their future interest in foster parenting. Right now, however, there’s no need to chase them down and convince them of how needed or how rewarding it is, because they’re not listening. Yet.

Know your audience

Recruiting is an exercise in communication, so it’s very important to know your audience. Whether you’re speaking at an event or hosting a table at one, you need to understand the demographics of attendees.

If it’s a kids’ event, you may have a lot of young families who could be scared off by their fear or unfamiliarity with raising teens. That doesn’t mean you can’t bring it up if that’s where the conversation goes, but it may not be best to lead with that message. On the other hand, if you’re at a concert with teens present, you might be able to get their parents interested in fostering teens, because that’s the season of life they are in.

Visit other tables

Some of the best leads can come from the people hosting other tables at the event. Set up your table a little early, then make the rounds and introduce yourself to other people hosting tables. Getting to know what they are there for, and offering to send people their way who might be interested in their product or service builds good will, and gives you a chance to ask the same of them. They may not do it, but making this personal connection will make your time at the event more enjoyable, and can open up doors for conversation about foster care later.

Be approachable

Engaging visitors walking by a table at a busy event can be difficult, but sitting behind the table puts us at a clear disadvantage. One way you can break through this physical barrier is to stand in front of the table. Make eye contact with passers-by and smile anytime someone looks your way, and be willing to start a conversation. That is the only way to know if they are interested in learning more about foster care.

You will be surprised at how often someone makes eye contact, and if they see a smile, will seek more information on what you’re there for. They may glance down at the table to see what you’re representing, or behind you at a banner, but don’t take this as disinterest and drop the ball. Most people who make direct eye contact with you at first will at least be open to exchanging a few words with you. That’s your opportunity to get a conversation going.

Starting a conversation

The challenge at an event table is to get a meaningful conversation started amidst the noise and distraction of the venue. The art of starting conversations with complete strangers is very useful at this point. For some, this is a gift that comes naturally, but for most people, this can be a little uncomfortable at first. For the more introverted, it’s a challenge worth tackling. I can guarantee you that the satisfaction of breaking the ice will be worth the initial discomfort. Remember, it’s next to impossible to recruit new foster parents without a warm, friendly conversation.

Everyone has to find a technique that works for them, but for most people, a simple question is all it takes: “Have you ever thought about becoming a foster parent?” Those who answer “yes” are the easiest prospects. Simply saying “that’s great” and waiting for their response is often all you need to do; they’ll usually take it from there by asking their own question. Fill any awkward silence with a few comments on how rewarding it is to help these kids. These are the perfect prospects to sign up to get more information and to invite to an information meeting.

There are two types of people who will say “no,” however. There are those who are saying “no, I’ve never thought about it, but I’m open to hearing more,” and “no, I’ve never thought about it, and never intend to.” The first category of “no” you can lead to the information they need. For those in the second category, you can end the conversation pretty quickly so you’re ready to smile and make eye contact with the next person who walks by. J

Be ready to suggest an action

Brochures don’t recruit as much as they support recruiting efforts. Rather than passively wait for them to ask what they should do if they are interested, deliver what’s called a “call to action.” The best action to suggest for someone who shows some interest in learning more about foster care is to ask them to sign up to request more information.

Handing out brochures and other items can be very useful, but you want to minimize the chance that the brochure will stay in their bag and never get looked at again. Ask them to sign up to receive more information, and let them know they’ll be invited to a fun and informal meeting where they’ll be able to ask any questions they want. Then hand them a brochure.

Other tips to make events more productive

  • Have a big, eye-catching banner behind the table that clearly tells visitors what the table is about, i.e. recruiting new foster parents.
  • Have a bowl of candy to offer visitors to your table. Ask parents if it’s OK to give their child candy, and as you’re doing that, ask the ice-breaker question “Have you ever thought about doing foster care?”
  • Have a game like a sandbag toss that kids can do. When they “win,” they get a candy. It’s best to have one person manning the game to keep the line moving, and at least one other person ready to engage in conversation with the parents.
  • Resource Table. Have resources organized on the table with informational flyers closest to the guests, and more expensive giveaways (water bottles, yo-yos, keychains, etc.) at the back of the table. When someone shows an interest, you can offer those items but you don’t need to give them away as freely as flyers.
  • Information Meetings. Have a stack of flyers or cards with the dates of upcoming information meetings. For visitors who show an interest in learning more, ask them to sign up to request more information (so you have their contact information), then hand them the card with upcoming information meeting dates.
  • Signup Sheet. The signup sheet to request more information about foster care should be the “main event” at the table, and the main thing we ask people who are interested in foster care to do. Explain the benefits of signing up–they will receive notifications of upcoming information meetings to ask any questions they have and learn how to get started.

Good recruiting is about putting yourself in the place of the hearer of your message, and answering the questions What would I want to know?, or How would I want to be approached?

We don’t have a difficult message to convey. Most perfect strangers will at least be sympathetic when we say that foster kids need great families to love and mentor them. With a little creativity and a few proven techniques, we can take that good will and use it to connect with more big-hearted families who will be open to this wonderful calling.

Idaho’s foster care parents are in short supply, caseloads high

Idaho’s foster care system struggles under a deepening shortage of foster parents and high caseloads for social workers, according to a performance review released Monday.

The review by the Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluations cited an 8 percent decline in the number of licensed foster parents from 2014 to 2016, from 1,062 to 974, and caseloads that were one-third or more higher than they should be.

“What is unquestioned is there is a workload problem,” Amanda Bartlett, one of OPE’s evaluators, told the Legislature’s joint oversight committee Monday.

The office recommended creation of a broad oversight entity to address performance gaps.

“A legislative standing committee is one option that states have used to establish this oversight with ongoing accountability, visibility, and accessibility,” OPE Director Rakesh Mohan wrote in his message to the committee accompanying the report.

Read more here:

Green Bay Packers’ Ty Montgomery and mom advocate foster care

MILWAUKEE (WISN) – A Green Bay Packers wide receiver and his mom are working together to show the benefits of foster parenting through a new effort.

Ty Montgomery and his mother, Lisa Montgomery, have joined a foster parent recruitment campaign with the theme, “Without foster parents, futures get stuck.”

Lisa Montgomery fostered 17 children. Ty Montgomery, her only biological son, was keen on the idea.

“I wanted a bigger family,” he said. “I wanted some brothers in my life.”

His first foster brother was a boy named Lee.

Church urges foster care

No child should be without a family — or a community.

That belief is the driving force behind Community Church’s new foster care initiative, The Village, said Amanda Powell, chief operating officer for Community Church.

More than 1,000 children across Hampton Roads are in foster care — and there are many others that agencies are trying to place into the foster care system, said Powell.

Through The Village, Community Church is helping families navigate the cumbersome process of becoming foster parents, according to Dawn Sutherland, the church’s communications director. The Chesapeake church is streamlining the process by bringing multiple social service and foster agencies together at the Jolliff Road church for training and information sessions.

Chambliss Center Hosts Foster Care Info Night June 6

As a follow-up to National Foster Care Month in May, Chambliss Center for Children will host a Foster Care Info Night on Monday, June 6 from 6:30-8 p.m.

With an estimated 750 to 800 children in the Tennessee Valley in state care at any given time, there is a critical need for quality, loving foster homes in this area. The public is invited to attend this free Foster Care Info Night to learn more about fostering a child who has been removed from their home. The event will feature a short film on a child’s experience in foster care and the value of a loving, safe foster home. There will be an opportunity to learn more about Chambliss Center for Children, the foster care system, requirements for fostering, and to hear from a current foster parent.

More children in state’s care as officials recruit foster families

Sam Smith,  director of Calhoun County Department of Health and Welfare

Sam Smith, director of Calhoun County Department of Health and Welfare

The number of Calhoun County children in state custody jumped by nearly 30 percent from 2015, according to the Alabama Department of Human Resources.

That rise comes with the increasing need of more foster families to take those children in, DHR administrators said.

From April 2015 to April of this year, the number of Calhoun County children in state custody increased from 177 to 229. The rise follows an overall statewide trend, said Barry Spear, spokesman for Alabama’s Department of Human Resources.

Foster care system grows at rapid rate

foster-care-system-grows-at-rapid-rateThe number of children in the Arkansas foster care system continues to grow at a rapid rate. One organization is raising awareness for the growing need for people to get involved.

“The Call”– a faith-based nonprofit — took to the steps of the capitol in hopes of encouraging others to join them and open their homes to kids that desperately need one.

“We felt the call God pulled us into foster care we didn’t really feel like we had a choice we have room to spare we have spare time to give,” said foster parent Josh Brackett.

AGAPE foster care director takes in kids and helps reunify

Birth parents Tosha and Rob Skor with Eban in September 2014.

Birth parents Tosha and Rob Skor with Eban in September 2014.

Chandler Means had a sick feeling when he pulled up to the trailer park.

Means, a foster dad, had been caring for a sweet 18-month-old named Eban. After only a week, authorities told Means to return the boy to his birth parents.

“You knock on the door and you have a little boy in your arms, and you don’t wanna give him up,” Means said. “It doesn’t take but a few moments to fall in love with a kid.”

The sick feeling turned to dread when the door opened.

Foster parents push for new laws

Dan Bracken, a foster care advocate, with his two daughters. (FOX Carolina/ May 13, 2016)

Dan Bracken, a foster care advocate, with his two daughters. (FOX Carolina/ May 13, 2016)

Dan Bracken is teaching his children a lesson on history and the solar system.

“For our children they’ve seen a world they don’t necessarily get to see every day,” Bracken said.

His children are home-schooled and he’s a foster parent. “We have four children that are ours- and we’re fostering a 5th right now,” he said.

It’s a calling that has also turned him into an advocate. Right now, state laws won’t allow him to go on vacation with his foster child without a long approval process.

“This past fall we wanted to go apple picking as a family- just across the state line – we couldn’t,” Bracken said.

Utah is in desperate need of foster parents

Dan Webster, the Salt Lake valley representative for Utah Foster Care, talks to Fox 13

Dan Webster, the Salt Lake valley representative for Utah Foster Care, talks to Fox 13

Utah is in desperate need of foster parents and families. Dan Webster, the Salt Lake valley representative for Utah Foster Care, shared why now is the time to help. Recently Utah as a whole has seen a need for children, especially siblings, to be taken care of in foster care.

May is National Foster Care Month and a great time to sign up to serve as a foster parent. Utah Foster Care lays out all of the information for prospective parents in a pamphlet. They say common misconceptions for foster care is that you have to be married or own your home, neither are true.