Today's Foster Care CAMPAIGN: An Integrated Marketing Approach

Article excerpt

If you were to ask people living in New York City's highest-needs communities what they think about the quality of their local foster care system, what answer would you expect?

If you're like most people in the field, you would probably assume an overwhelmingly negative response and expect to hear that the system is broken, right?

Wrong. When True Insight Marketing researched this and other questions, we were surprised and delighted to learn that, contrary to popular belief, people in New York's high-needs communities are more positive, interested, and knowledgeable than anyone had anticipated. This information is significant and has been critically important in developing the core messages we've embedded in marketing materials for New York City's Administration for (Children's Services (ACS).

Beginning in 2001, True Insight Marketing started working with ACS on an advertising campaign called Today's Foster Care to improve ACS's recruitment and retention of foster parents-a daunting task in any system, no less in New York City.

We've operated under the premise that if it is everyone's job to recruit new familles, then we need consensus around what we are saying and how we are saying it so we don't send the wrong messages. Our work, therefore, has concentrated on five areas: business process improvement, community engagement, branding, marketing and communications, and leadership and development. This work has yielded positive, measurable results, and we have learned a tremendous amount.

Our marketing research, in particular, revealed powerful information that can contribute to fundamentally changing awareness, attitudes, and behaviors. Individuals and organizations outside New York City responsible for recruiting, supporting, and retaining foster parents may find this information useful and applicable in their own communities.

Change a Lifetime Beginning this May

CWLA, once again, is joining 13 other organizations to recognize and promote May as National Foster Care Month-an opportunity for people nationwide to get involved as foster parents, volunteers, mentors, or employers, or in other ways. It's also an opportunity to show appreciation for the dedication of the foster families who care for more than 500,000 children and youth, and the social workers who support them.

This year's campaign theme is Change a Lifetime: Share Your Heart, Open Your Home, Offer Your Help and will focus heavily on how to get involved in the lives of young people in foster care. The campaign's website, www.fostercaremonth.org, is a year-round resource containing facts and statistics on foster care, links to partner organizations, a toolkit on how you can help, stories from foster parents and foster care alumni, a calendar of events in your state, and official pins, ribbons, and campaign posters for purchase.

May was first declared National Foster Care Month in 1988 in a measure introduced by then-U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC). The first President Bush issued annual proclamations during each year of his presidency, which moved states, counties, and cities to issue their own proclamations. The primary focus of early efforts was appreciation and recognition for the tremendous contributions of foster parents nationwide.

During the 1990s, the focus was on youth in transition, and under the leadership of the National Foster Care Coalition and casey Family Programs, Foster Care Month became a significant part of the drumbeat that ultimately resulted in the passage of the Chafee Foster Care Independence Act.

Today, National Foster Care Month focuses on calling on all Americans to take action on behalf of children and youth in foster care, and to ensure Americans know how they can change a lifetime in their own communities, starting in May and extending year round.

The Key Objectives

Today's Foster Care campaign, which ran from May 2003 to November 2004, had four key objectives:

* Increase recruitment of new families to care for the types of children coming into care today, and within the communities where the children live. …