Part of my job as the executive director of a foster care agency is to pay attention to what my competitors are doing.  I don’t feel any need to replicate what they’re doing, but I do want to learn from their successes and failures.  If you are observant and can assess without becoming too critical, the mistakes other agencies make can teach you a lot.  As I’ve paid close attention to agencies that struggle with recruiting, I’ve identified some common threads among them.  Here are five common mistakes agencies make in recruiting.

1. Missing Strategy- Absent Assessments

Without a strategic plan, organizations drift like a sailboat without a rudder.  It’s important to work from a strategy instead of a set of tactics or a short-term plan that merely puts recruiting events on a calendar.  Recruiting requires planning and taking a hard, honest look at those things we’ve been doing that aren’t working.

2. Cluttering the Pathway

Agencies that fail make it hard for people to become foster parents.  They do things like charge for CPR & First Aid trainings because they’re counting pennies.  Some make potential families pay for their own Live Scanning or background checks.  These actions frustrate prospective foster parents and slow down the recruiting process.  Every agency needs to ask the question; “What are we doing that is making it hard for people to become foster parents?”

3. Lacking Accurate Insight

Many agencies know that they need parents. They know what activities they have planned to reach prospects. They schedule events, provide incentives and do advertising. Yet, these same agencies often have very little understanding why people want to become foster parents. 

Potential parents have varied expectations, motivations, and preconceived ideas of parenting.  These are all influencing their decision to foster. Agencies that aren’t aware of these, risk disconnecting from the primary motivations and concerns of their prospective parents. We need this vital insight to inform our recruitment efforts. Then we can tap into those motivations, address preconceived ideas and properly guide their expectations. 

We need to know the needs and motivations of the families who are considering becoming foster parents so we can help move them through the decision-making process.

4. Response Lethargy

The agencies that have difficulty are typically lethargic.  They miss appointments, do not follow up on calls and move people through their process inefficiently.  We need to be on our game!  Call people back immediately. Follow up and make follow up appointments when you meet with potential foster parents.  And be more directive about the process.

5. Externalizing the Problem

The agencies that struggle the most often believe that other agencies are doing something unfair. Or that they struggle with recruitment because they take in the most challenging children.  They play the victim.  Unfortunately, these folks are the most difficult to coach.  They seem to always have a reason why your advice or suggestions won’t work.  Agencies that want to change must begin to analyze what they’re doing compared to other successful agencies. Blaming other agencies, circumstances or people only does one thing- it blinds you to the gaps that are internal to your organization.  Those gaps are often limiting your recruitment success.  Struggling agencies need to review what they are doing or not doing and correct the things that don’t work.

I believe that the main reason agencies don’t succeed is internal, not external.  That is great news because when it’s an internal issue, we can change; if we decide to become better and avoid these common mistakes. 

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