The Cost of Foster Carer Recruitment
24 March 2014 at 9:42 am
There are many articles, manuals and books on how to recruit foster carers, yet there is little research on the effectiveness and financial costs to the organisation of these strategies, writes NGO Recruitment consultant Deanne Carroll.
In the commercial sector it is estimated that to recruit, employ, and train a new employee costs between 1.5-3.5 times the person’s salary package. For example, hedging on the conservative side, if a caseworker’s salary package is $80,000, it costs the organisation at least $120,000 to have a fully functional employee on board.
A number of foster care managers and recruitment and retention managers of larger organisations have reviewed the costs of their Carer Recruitment Teams, and their output in terms of number of carers approved per year.
They estimate the cost of recruitment per carer as being between $10,000-$25,000, but acknowledge they have not accounted for other HR on-costs. They all vary significantly regarding costs spent and the effectiveness of their recruitment strategies.
A recruitment campaign conducted in Sydney in 2010-2011 cost the NSW Government $90,000 and received nine carer candidate applications. At the time of the report, it did not state how many of those applicants had became approved carers. The additional cost to this project would need to be that of assessing, training and engaging the applicants.
Using information from the commercial sector, and people’s experiences within the foster care sector, the data suggests that to recruit a foster carer is roughly $20,000 – $30,000. If this is indeed the case, then drilling down the specifics of WHO you need for the children that come under your care is financially critical.
Foster Carer Recruitment campaigns generally give a broad call to people who desire to be carers: “You could become a foster carer”, “We need foster carers”.
These campaigns may find a few people who actually suit the profile of the children coming through intake.
However, the result is often that organisations end up with accredited carers with no placements or poor matching between children and carers, thus increasing the likelihood of placement breakdown and kids drifting in the system.
This is not only a wasted financial cost to the organisation, but a massive social cost for the sector and an even bigger tragedy for the children in care. That ill-fitting carer may have been more suitable for another organisation, and had a long and prosperous fostering career. Instead, they will become disillusioned about the process, the organisation and fostering in general.
Organisations seem reticent to advertise specifically for who they are after. If a community service organisation is looking for a new caseworker they list the skills and experience required and in most circumstances, the financial package and role to be undertaken. They do not say “We seek a Caseworker – that could be you”, it couldn’t actually, unless you have x, y, z experience, and a, b, and c qualifications.
It is inconsequential in the current discussion whether you fall on the side of the Luddites, or the business-model purporting professionals think laterally about their human resource shortage in the foster care arena. What really matters is: do foster care organisations have the right approved carers to meet the increasing demand?
About the Author: Deanne Carroll is a community services professional with over 20 years experience in the Out-of-Home-Care and Disability sectors. Carroll has recruited, assessed, trained and supported foster carers for over a decade.
During that time, she also held senior project management roles to improve communication and support to foster carers, develop and enhance the engagement processes, and create and instigate learning opportunities for carers, ranging from competency based packages to conferences.