The recent COVID 19 virus had me look at how we can recruit when we are in the middle of a crisis.   In the last 2 years, I have been evacuated from my home because of fire,  our expansion into other counties was put on hold because of a whole community being wiped out by another fire,  we have had electrical outages for up to 3 days at a time,  and we had a freak snowstorm that threw our community into a standstill.   Sound familiar?

Then comes this virus!  So, how do we keep recruiting when all of our normal ways of recruiting cease to work?

Why do they cease to work?   Well, we may not be able to congregate.  In March of this year, California was in shutdown mode because of COVID 19. That means we can’t do the events that we normally do. 

We had to work through the situation of what do we do with orientations, etc. 

I began to realize there was only one thing that was consistent through all of our crisis in the last two years, including the most recent one.

Have you asked yourself what works when nothing else does?   I sure have and I found that one thing we have done for the last 5 years has continually produced results.

So, what has worked for us?

We have relied on our website and our SEO for recruiting families:

In the last year we have been able to scale back on events. We were doing eight events a year and the list was growing.  So was the expense, in fact we were exhausting our employees by asking them to work on a weekend event. 

We found that the quality of homes from events was less than what we could get from our recruiting efforts over the internet. 

Every week without fail we get applications over the internet to be a resource parent / foster parent.  I am really impressed with the quality of families we are getting. 

At this point we could really shut down everything else and rely completely on our web site for our new families. 

I was skeptical when I first met with the agency who handles our SEO, but after the first six months we have had a continuous supply of families.

In the last six months, because of the abundance of families, we have had to find placements for those families.  Otherwise the families would be waiting and might go to another foster agency that would promise them a placement or to the local county Child Welfare Services and become a parent for them. 

We solved the problem of having enough homes, but of course it provided us with the dilemma of having enough children to be placed in those homes.

What is SEO?

Just because I am not that technical, I will tell you how I see it.

First, it has to do with where we end up on the listings.  The listings on Google or Yahoo or Bing for example if someone wants to know about foster care then they might type the words “foster care Des Moines” or “being a resource parent” or in your area it might be “foster parent.”  

The agencies who get contacted are those who have done their work and put in key words that drive people to their agency.  

I want to be in the top 3 of any search engine listing.  If I am 8th or 9th or don’t show up at all then someone else who is practicing good SEO is going to get all the attention.   

Most Agencies’ priorities are to have a few key words and make the website very attractive.  This really doesn’t do the job anymore. 

You have to do more!   There are ingredients you have to put into your web site that will put you at the top of the hill in recruiting.  

I have talked with Agency leaders who really think that they are doing great in this area.  But when I ask them to get their web site analyzed by SEM Rush (I’ll do this for free if you want to get a report) or other tools, they find out that they have problems. 

The problems can be, excuse me for getting into the weeds here, broken links or the inability for “search engine crawlers” to maneuver around in your web site.  If a search engine can’t make sense of your web site, they won’t acknowledge you and you won’t have them recommending your web site.  

Keywords are not the end of the story.  You have to have your web site navigable, meaning that it works with search engines really well. 

You also have to have content that interests people. 

Of course, the website has to be attractive but surprisingly this isn’t the most important thing.

The most important thing is to have people know about you, visit your web site, and stay for awhile!

How important do you think all of this is? 

The important thing is that if people visit you and like what they see they will generally fill out an application so that you can call them and set up an appointment. 

If you can’t be found, they are finding someone else!

I started SEO and working on my web site about 5 years ago.  I should say I hired a consultant to do the work for us. We doubled in size in our first two years after beginning to use SEO.   I now am familiar enough with it to make recommendations on what our website should do.  Agencies ask me continually what they should do to find parents.  I share with them our experience and show them the direction of the future in recruiting.  

 The statistics say that over 93% of the people who find you, that never knew about you before, used their laptop, mobile phone or their PC.  If you want 93% of the people to know about you, there is a way to make that happen.

One of my favorite questions is “do you want people to look on the internet and not find you?”

Potential parents are going to find someone why not make sure it is you?

Make sure you have good reviews so that they will immediately trust you.   If you have anything that would stop or slow down the parent from finding you, make sure you address the issue. 

How do you process families in situations like these?

How do we bring families in when there is chaos?  How do you keep them interested?  

These are good questions, because in a situation like COVID-19, our staff was hesitant about meeting people they didn’t know. 

We did some simple things that helped us keep the process moving, including:

  1. We used a software called Zoom to do our orientations.
  2. We had one interview with potential parents and then scheduled them out a month. They understood the situation and we kept them interested.
  3. We kept in touch with the people.
  4. We sent them materials about being safe and interacting with their children that we were sending to our foster families.

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

 – Thomas A. Edison

We had 4 families that were ready to be approved and we wanted to not slow down them down.  We used Zoom and it turned out well. 

Being down for several months will have the affect of slowing everything down.  We need to continually recruit.  Even if we aren’t getting the same results the focus on recruiting is the key. 

The results will come, and this situation will pass.  We will need new families when this situation passes. 

Keep up the good work.  Create great systems and consider using SEO for your recruiting needs.

To learn more about how to recruit foster/resource parents during times of crisis, join our webinar on May 7th here:

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