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Recruiting Social Workers for Foster Care: How to Find the Right People for Your Fostering Agency?

  • Date: Mar 07, 2024
  • Author: Chloe Meredith

Supervising social workers play a crucial role in the fostering system and can have a major impact on the lives of vulnerable children. It’s no secret that recruiting in children’s social work can be tough. At Vetro we know how hard it can be to find the right people for these important roles. If you are recruiting social workers in children’s foster care, you’ll need effective strategies for attracting caring and committed individuals that also acknowledge the challenges this kind of work can bring.  
Join us as we explore how to build strong teams that can handle the complexities of child welfare and creating environments where social workers can thrive while meeting the urgent needs of the kids they're helping. 

The Challenges of Recruiting for Children's Social Work

One of the biggest challenges for recruitment in children’s social work is how to present the role to potential candidates. Social workers are often asked to cover a wide variety of responsibilities, from filling out fostering paperwork, liaising with foster parents, and providing day-to-day support, they are also often present at some of the most emotional events in a young child’s life.
Writing a job description is therefore a bit of a balancing act, between accurately representing the duties of the job and promoting its many positives without simplifying the role. A lack of realism at this early stage can lead to a higher turnover of staff further down the line and can have a knock-on effect on your organisation’s ability to provide care and support.  

Recruiting social workers for foster care also means tackling some conflicting public perceptions of the role of social work and some stereotypes around the kind of person social workers can be.  

There is a particular media stereotype of a children’s social worker as being a white, middle-aged, middle-class woman who is perhaps well meaning but naïve. This idea of social work as being a profession dominated by women or the middle class might put off applicants from other backgrounds such as young men, BAME candidates or those with a working-class background. 

Worse is the persistent negative portrayals of social workers in the media. One study by Dr Maria Leedham found that news stories about social workers were four times more likely to be negative than positive. In film and TV social workers are often portrayed as snatching children away from their families. All of which can make it harder when recruiting social workers. Where the reality for a fostering social worker is quite the opposite, their role is to match children with a suitable family, which can be one of the most rewarding aspects of social work.  

Changing Perceptions and Presenting a Realistic Picture 

There has been plenty of recent positive coverage of children’s social work and the foster system in the media. Fatima Whitbread has been outspoken about the role social workers and foster care has had in her life, and initiatives to improve the support offered to social workers and carers as well as attract new people to these roles. 

However, marketing social work and foster care with appealing imagery and simplistic messaging runs the risk of misrepresenting or glamourising the reality of the role of a supervising social worker.  

Foster agencies recruiting social workers need to both stay honest about the challenges of roles in children’s care while also working hard to highlight the meaningful impact applicants can have in the role, emphasising its long-term nature. This isn't merely a job; it's a calling and a career. By being truthful but staying upbeat you can attract individuals who are genuinely committed to navigating a complex system and having a lasting impact on the lives of children. 

5 Ways to Attract the Right Candidates for Social Work Roles  

We understand the need for concrete strategies to refine and improve your talent attraction when it comes to recruiting social workers for foster care. Here are five approaches for striking that all-important balance when it comes to promoting and filling your open roles: 

  1. Keep Job Descriptions Realistic

    When writing a job description for supervising social workers, it's important to keep it real. Clearly describe the responsibilities and expectations in simple language and be honest about the challenges, like dealing with kids who may have had tough experiences. This way, you attract people who are truly ready for the long-term commitment and understand what the job involves.  

  2. Advertise Your Benefits

    Highlighting the benefits and realistic earnings available is important to provide a clear and enticing picture of the positive aspects of joining your team. Include both tangible benefits like pay and continuing professional development (CPD) alongside other perks like work-life balance on both your website and job descriptions. This not only attracts potential candidates but also demonstrates your commitment to creating a supportive and fulfilling work environment. 
  3. Emphasise the Support Available

    You also need to be clear about the support available to both new and experienced social workers. Children’s social work can be a challenging field. You should have processes to manage workloads, supervision and case allocation in place. You might also offer a range of support, from mental health and wellbeing services to financial advice, mentoring or other CPD programs. If you do, shout about them on your careers website or social media! 
  4. Promote the Rewards

    Inspire potential candidates by underlining the rewarding nature of social work as a career and the meaningful contribution social workers can have on children's lives. This approach will connect you with individuals who are passionate about creating lasting, positive changes in the lives of vulnerable children. 
  5. Widen Your Talent Search

    Broaden your talent pool and attract candidates with the right attributes for social work from diverse backgrounds by implementing targeted outreach initiatives. Focus on key personality traits – outgoing, organised, socially responsible – and tailor the language in your job descriptions and careers material to appeal to those groups. You can also collaborate with community groups, use social media and employee referrals to connect with more diverse candidates with those attributes. 

At Vetro our dedicated consultants have years of experience working in the social work sector to draw on. Which means they are well placed to give you guidance and support when it comes to attracting and retaining talented social workers for your agency.  

Learn more about Vetro Social Work or contact a consultant to discuss your hiring needs.  

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