St Christopher’s Fellowship is a registered charity that's been providing care for vulnerable children and young people for over 140 years. They came to us after they had been awarded a major and hugely challenging contract by Essex County Council, who had decided to close its care homes for young people. St Christopher’s were appointed to find foster homes for the children and young people who were displaced and for those who would need care in the future. This was no easy task, many of the children were in care, because their relationships with previous foster families had broken down. Recruiting foster carers is hard enough, but these children were likely to have significant personal and behavioural issues. So to meet the brief, St Christopher’s needed to recruit 'specialist' foster carers – experienced, skilled and motivated enough to work well with the children.
The received wisdom is that fostering is a vocation. Whilst this is true – carers love fostering – they also understand the reality that it is a full time job. In fact, humble though foster carers tend to be, they recognise that fostering is not glorified babysitting but actually a highly skilled profession. The problem is that given its vocational standing, few fostering organisation have the vision or the resources to recognise and support fostering as a career option. This is where St Christopher’s is different. Rather than create a typical fostering campaign – selling the generic concept of fostering to the undecided – we chose to position St Christopher’s as offering the most professional service to the most professional careers. We developed a fully integrated messaging programme designed to raise awareness of our aim to remove the barriers currently preventing the 'professionals in spirit' becoming 'professionals in practice'. We called this the STEP programme: Support. Training. Ethos. Package. Showcasing St Christopher’s new corporate look and feel, we created a complete 'campaign in a box' covering everything from initial demand generation to materials that would be used to help applicants through the long and arduous clearance process.
The recruitment campaign went live in mid 2012. Final results will not be know for sometime as the screening process for applicants for specialist fostering positions can take up to 18 months.