CAMPAIGNS: Public Sector - Birmingham aims to raise foster carers

Client: Birmingham City Council

PR Team: Consumer and customer relations team

Campaign: Adoption and fostering recruitment

Timescale: October - December 2001

Budget: £10,000



There is a shortage of foster parents across the UK. It is believed that

one of the reasons for this is a lack of awareness of how to apply; or

would-be foster carers believe they would not qualify as they lack the

right background or the appropriate marital status.



Birmingham has almost 2,000 children in foster care, placed up for

adoption or in residential care. Although the city has 700 foster

carers, it was only recruiting, on average, 140 carers a year - a number

far outstripped by demand.



Following a restructuring of social services, a fostering recruitment

centre was launched in Birmingham on 9 October. This move aimed at

centralising enquiries and enabling the public to drop-in or call a

single hotline for more information.



Birmingham City Council decided to run a PR campaign to raise awareness

of the centre and to generate enquiries about becoming a carer.



Objectives



To spread the message that many people - older, younger, married, single

and with or without children - can adopt or become foster carers. To

generate at least 1,200 enquiries.



Strategy and Plan



The council's communications and customer relations department needed to

target different audiences as different kinds of carers were needed,

from emergency foster carers, to sibling carers.



Due to the increase in invitro fertilisation treatment and childless

couples seeking help from overseas adoption services or orphanages,

there was a general misconception that there are no young children up

for adoption.



The PR team decided to kick off the campaign by focusing on this area

first of all with a 'baby' campaign using bus advertising, and

advertorials in the local press, using the strapline: 'Can you find room

in your life ... for a child who needs you?'



To illustrate the relative straightforwardness of the process involved

to become a carer, interviews with some foster carers and adopters who

had already been through it were provided for the local press, radio and

TV.



Community radio was used attract interest from Afro-Caribbean and Asian

groups. The council followed up the 'baby' campaign with a similar

'teenage' campaign.



Measurement and Evaluation



Ongoing measurement of the campaign means final figures are unavailable.

To date, the campaign has received coverage in the local press and radio

and a piece on the local TV news programme, Midlands Today, which

generated enquiries from viewers interested in becoming carers.



Results



The City Council has so far received 750 enquiries towards its annual

target of 1,200. In the month before the campaign began there were just

61 enquiries. One-hundred and 11 applicants are being assessed and have

started the process to become carers with, the council says, a mix of

Asian, Afro-Carribean and white carers coming forward.



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