Research Impact

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Boosting numbers of foster carers

A partnership forging a brighter future for children in need of safe and nurturing homes through effective marketing

An enduring partnership between UOW and Illawarra social service organisations has produced positive results in attracting more high quality foster carers for the thousands of Australian children in need of safe and nurturing homes.

For the past nine years a research team focusing on foster care marketing and recruitment, led by Associate Professor Melanie Randle from the School of Management, Operations and Marketing, has worked with Illawarra social service agencies CareSouth, CatholicCare Wollongong and William Campbell Foundation.

It’s a partnership which has helped to significantly increase numbers of foster carers for all partner organisations involved. For example, since the partnership began CareSouth has more than doubled its number of foster placements; William Campbell Foundation has increased its foster carers by more than 300 per cent; and in some regions CatholicCare Wollongong has tripled the number of children placed with foster families.

To achieve these outcomes the team first had to identify the characteristics of individuals who were likely to be particularly good in the role of foster carer. Subsequently, they had to develop marketing strategies that effectively attracted these types
of people.

“Attracting the right types of people means they are more likely to continue foster caring for longer periods and thus provide the types of stable and nurturing home environments which are critically important in achieving positive outcomes for foster children,” Associate Professor Randle said.

The research partnership has seen their findings disseminated through 19 journal publications, conference presentations and reports, including in some of the world’s leading journals. These have included the Journal of Advertising Research, British Journal of Social Work, Journal of Community Psychology and Child and Family Social Work.

They have provided consultation and advice to the NSW Department of Family and Community Services on issues of foster carer recruitment.

The team has received Australian Research Council (ARC) funding of more than $850,000 for foster care marketing research. In addition, they have recently been awarded another a 4-year ARC Linkage grant valued at $326,000 to conduct research in the area of disability services.

Over the next four years, this project will examine changes in perceived consumer value of disability services following the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The researchers will work with two local non-profit organisations that are faced with the challenge of operating in a newly competitive marketplace for disability service provision and having to compete with for-profit service providers.

More information on this project:

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Partner organisations

CatholicCare Wollongong
William Campbell Foundation

UOW participants

A/Prof. Melanie Randle, Dr Leonie Miller, Joanna Stirling