Addressing the Urgent Need for Foster and Adoptive Homes
The availability of quality foster and adoptive homes is an ever present challenge within child welfare. Historically, homes for teens and large sibling groups are even more difficult to recruit. There is an added challenge, currently, in that the number of new foster homes being licensed is outpaced by the numbers of children being removed from their homes. Removals are at a ten year high within Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties. Heartland for Children is committed to innovation in the approaches used to recruit and retain quality foster parents.
One such initiative is Heartland for Children’s participation in the Florida Intelligent Recruitment Project otherwise known as the FIRP project. Heartland for Children is one of four Community Based Care Organizations chosen to partner with the Department of Children and Families in a federally funded grant spanning five years designed to increase the pool of foster and adoptive parents in the difficult to place age group of nine to fifteen using strategic marketing approaches. In the initial phases of the FIRP, extensive research was conducted by an independent marketing firm identifying what motivates someone to consider foster parenting or adoption and how to effectively communicate the need for foster and adoptive parents. This type of psychographic research is the same type of process that is utilized by Fortune 500 companies in developing their marketing initiatives. Following completion of the research, a comprehensive marketing plan was developed for each Community Based Care organization to implement and the results are tracked for analysis.
The FIRP project is in its third year and implementation of the marketing plan is in full swing. Some of the initiatives commenced are a complete redesign of all marketing material to be reflective of the local community and rebranding the messaging to reflect the urgent needs within the local community, production of a foster parent recruitment commercial airing on various Brighthouse Network stations, increased engagement of various community organizations including the faith based and educational communities, and enhancement of social media marketing techniques.
Initial results from the FIRP project are promising as there has been an overall increase in the numbers of people requesting more information about becoming a foster or adoptive parent. There has also been an increase in the willingness of various community partners to support recruitment efforts in many ways.
In addition to the continuation and refinement of the intelligent marketing component of the project, significant work is being performed in the area of building customer service strategies to support the overall objectives of the FIRP project. This will be a major focus area during the remainder of the project.