5 Keys to Retaining Foster Parents

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5 Keys to Retaining Foster Parents

By Jason Bays, April 26, 2018


The foster care industry is nearing crisis mode.  The number of foster children in care has increased every year since 2012.  Agencies are struggling to keep pace and increase the number of licensed foster homes.  Also, foster parent turnover is extremely high (30% - 50% per year) which only exasperates the problem.  While the obvious solution is to recruit new foster parents, we believe a more successful approach starts with retaining existing foster parents.  

Why?  Research has repeatedly shown that new foster parents are most effectively recruited by happy and well-supported existing foster parents.  While it might be creative to advertise on buses, billboards and park benches, those avenues have been proven to be largely ineffective.  That's why foster care agencies need to revisit why foster parents are quitting in the first place. 

Here are 5 practical steps agencies can take to address the most common reasons foster parents close their licenses:

1)  Recruit more respite caregivers.  (These are short-term caregivers who care for the foster children for a day or two to give foster parents a break.)  One of the most common requests from foster parents is quality respite care.  Although most agencies have respite policies in place, foster parents often report that respite services are difficult to access because of inadequate numbers of respite caregivers. The National Foster Parent Association recommends that all foster parents receive at least two days per month of planned respite care.  

2)  Address grief and loss.  85% of foster parents struggle with feelings of grief and loss.  Begin grief training for foster parents prior to the child transitioning out of the home.  Additionally, having foster parents keep a daily journal has been proven to be highly therapeutic for people struggling with grief, loss and overall stress. 

3)  Improve communication.  40% of foster parents cite poor communication and lack of agency support as the primary reason they close their license.  Not only is journaling a great way to reduce stress, it's also beneficial when the journal is shared with members of the foster parent’s care team.  It gives the team insights into the needs of the foster child and foster parent.  Journals are also very helpful for counselors as they prepare therapy sessions.  Journals help everyone on the foster care team see the big picture and everyone's feedback.  

4)  Improve agency support.  Support begins with communication, or more specifically, utilizing a communication and collaboration tool.  In business, the benefits of collaboration software have been long apparent; easy, efficient communication with colleagues, increased opportunities for brainstorming with remote team members, and the ability to share content, files and other resources with anyone, anytime, anywhere.  Collaboration software has also been proven to increase transparency and lead to faster, more effective problem-solving.  That's why businesses spend billions of dollars every year on collaboration tools.  The problem is, until now, there wasn't a collaboration solution that fits well with the foster care industry.  That's why we created FosterCare.Team.  FosterCare.Team can deliver the same benefits realized by big businesses while being tailored to the unique requirements of foster care teams (like child behavior tracking and alerts for abuse and neglect disclosures).  FosterCare.Team allows everyone on the team to stay up to date, assign tasks, view calendars, share resources, receive updates and offer feedback.  Additionally, agency support comes through accountability.  FosterCare.Team's dashboard helps agencies and supervisors keep their fingers on the pulse of all the foster homes, children and parents they oversee.

5)  Provide more training and make resources easier to access.  Utilize technology to allow agencies to easily train and disseminate resources to all foster parents within their agency.  Since the resources are can be web-based, foster parents can access them when it's most convenient for them.


At FosterCare.Team, we firmly believe the solutions to the biggest challenges facing foster care begin with improving communication.  If we can improve the communication between the foster parent and their foster care team, we can provide more accurate and timely support for the foster child and the foster parent.  This increase in foster parent support will lead to a measurable improvement in the foster parenting experience and foster child well-being.  This leads to happier foster parents and happier foster parents are less likely to quit.  Not only will we increase foster parent retention, but this highly supportive environment will make it easier to recruit new foster parents because the most effective recruiters of new foster parents are existing foster parents.

So, while many states push to recruit new foster parents, let’s remember the most cost-effective solution may be to focus on retaining those you have already trained.  Ultimately, they’re the best recruiting asset you have.


Jason Bays is the President and Chief Evangelist for FosterCare.Team, a web-based collaboration platform designed specifically for the foster care industry.  With modules for journaling, behavior tracking, discussions, tasks, calendars, training and more, FosterCare.Team is designed to facilitate communication between members of a foster care team, leading to greater support for foster parents and an increase in the quality of care of foster children.  Follow him on LinkedIn and Facebook.  Learn more at https://fostercare.team.