Forming a recruitment and retention team

Local Social Services districts and voluntary agencies are encouraged to set up teams to plan and implement revitalized recruitment programs in their jurisdictions. While an outside facilitator is helpful to this process, such a person is not necessary as long as agency staff with the needed skills are available.

Commitment to change is essential, and this commitment must come from the top. The local commissioner of social services or agency director has to be on board with devoting staff time to this effort and with achieving a more systematic approach to recruitment. Ideally, this person is an active member of the team, especially at the onset. If this person is not a regular, ongoing member of the team, s/he should be informed of its progress, provide feedback to the team as needed, and attend meetings when possible.

The team will:

  • Determine the types of data related to recruitment and retention that are currently available
  • Identify sources for additional data and obtain it, if needed
  • Collect data in a way that facilitates review and analysis
  • Use data to reveal strengths and gaps in current recruitment/retention efforts, and any underlying factors
  • Develop strategies and actions to implement/recommend for the agency
  • Carry out or assign tasks identified in an Action Plan
  • Conduct an ongoing review of how the plan is progressing

Several of these activities may occur simultaneously at any given time.

Ideally, the team should be an ongoing part of the agency structure. The frequency of meetings will vary, but is recommended that the team meet at least every 4-6 weeks to check in, monitor progress, and make new assignments. Regularly scheduled team meetings, with written agendas, focused facilitation, and clear next steps are an important part of implementing an Action Plan.

. . . jump start the conversation.
  • Who needs to be involved from our agency in the ongoing review and analysis of our recruitment and retention data?
  • What is our overall process and approach for recruiting and retaining foster and adoptive parents?
  • What is the current process for responding to and referring inquiries from prospective foster and adoptive parents?

Who should be on the team?

In addition to individuals involved in home finding, the ideal team includes staff members from all agency departments that interact with current and prospective foster/adoptive parents. Foster parents, older youth, and community stakeholders also should contribute to the team's work. Read more . . .

Team Leader/Facilitator: The team leader, who typically would be chosen by the agency director, should have the skills required to make meetings productive and monitor progress on assigned tasks. The leader does not make decisions for the group, but has the skills to encourage team members to contribute to decisions that are made by the group.

The team leader must be able to envision the desired outcomes for the project and one or more paths that could be used to reach those goals. He/she should be familiar with resources such as those provided by the National Resource Center for Diligent Recruitment and Revitalizing Recruitment, the guide to recruitment strategies published by OFCS.

The team leader also should have experience with and knowledge of the agency's current recruitment and retention practices.

Team Members: The ideal team involves staff members from all agency departments that interact with current and prospective foster/adoptive parents. In addition to workers involved in homefinding, team members might include:

  • Administrative staff, such as Director of Services and Commissioner or CEO
  • Foster care director and/or caseworker
  • CPS supervisor and/or caseworker
  • Preventive Services supervisor/caseworker
  • Information technology and/or communications staff
  • Foster/adoptive parent

Meaningful input from foster parents and older youth in foster care is likely to be valuable to the team. These individuals have first-hand knowledge about the foster care experience. Their regular participation in team meetings may not be feasible, however, due to work, school, and other commitments. Think about other ways to get their input, such as interacting with foster parent groups, developing an e-mail list, or forming a focus group. More than one youth should be involved with the team so they have peer support. Community stakeholders may be invited to attend meetings as needed for specific initiatives.

In the course of its discussions, the recruitment team at a foster care agency realized that other caseworkers in the office were not fully aware of what is involved in becoming a foster parent. The team members presented an abbreviated version of the Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting (MAPP) training to their fellow workers in protective and preventive services, and also offered it to new employees. This training provided common language and information to help engage caseworkers throughout the agency in supporting recruitment and retention work.

Building partnerships in the community also plays a role in diligent recruitment. At one local agency, the home finding group reached out to all agency staff, described the current recruitment needs, and asked fellow staff members for assistance. Communication was done in various ways, such as agency-wide meetings and email blasts. As a result, agency staff who were not in the home finding unit identified personal contacts in the community within faith-based and service organizations, who were then contacted by home finders. This generated previously untapped community partnerships for recruitment.

Getting “buy-in” from the agency and community

The presence of the team has an added benefit: an increased awareness of the value and priority of recruiting and retaining quality foster homes. Read more . . .

Within the agency, there is recognition that identifying and certifying foster homes is not just the responsibility of the home finders. The team members, and all agency staff, come to understand that recruitment and retention are everyone's responsibility.

Although the team and its activities are led by the agency, finding and keeping quality foster parents is important to the community as a whole. A strong foster care program promotes the safety and success of children in the community, which strengthens the entire community. When considering possible strategies for an Action Plan, the team may wish to involve community stakeholders, such as businesses and major employers, educational institutions, and faith-based organizations. The team's efforts will be most effective when the community is aware of and is engaged in this work.