WORKSHOP: Case Study - Fostering group adopts fresh image

CLAIRE SAMES

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Background: The National Foster Care Association was founded by six people and two local authorities around a kitchen table in 1974.

Nearly all UK local authorities and more than 19,000 individual foster carers are members today.

The association helps children, who are often traumatised, by campaigning for higher standards of care, raising the profile of fostering. It works with local authorities and government to improve both recruitment and retention of trained foster carers.

The charity exists to ensure that the 45,000 children who live with foster families, usually while their family works through a crisis, receive the best standard of care. It also provides practical and emotional support to carers facing difficult situations, including a magazine and a helpline.

But while the charity has been successful in lobbying for change, it felt that its identity was dated and diminished its appeal to potential foster carers in the community. Therefore in 2001 it changed its name and identity in order to appeal to potential carers and policy-makers alike.

Aim: After 27 years as The National Foster Care Association, the organisation worked with design consultants Visible Edge to develop a new name and logo to reflect the modern face of foster care. The new identity would need to underpin and form the basis of how the organisation was portrayed.

The charity wanted a positive, friendly and confident new identity to convey its "caring" and "nurturing" qualities.

Equally important was developing an image that was relevant to foster care today.

How it worked: Extensive research was carried out with key opinion-formers, including staff, to establish the correct "visual" tone of the organisation.

Following the research, the committee came up with the name The Fostering Network to appeal more to those with a personal or professional interest in foster care.

A new strapline "Helping Children to Thrive" was developed from meetings, which was followed by a new logo that depicts a carer with a foster child in the form of a flower.

A web site was also launched, www.Fostering.net, to provide advice to people who had considered becoming carers. It also developed an email forum for foster parents to help them make contact with one another.

Posters were created to recruit fosterers in the UK. These could be bought by local authorities to run in their area and allowed them to digitally transfer their contact details into a blank space on the design. The campaign, which carried a telephone number for kids to call for advice, appeared in leisure centres, schools, GPs' surgeries and shopping centres.

The charity's quarterly magazine Foster Care, which has a circulation of 28,000, also underwent a redesign as part of the rebranding.

Results: A year on since the changes, and the logo has established itself as a symbol of foster care and is featured on a badge, which the charity is beginning to sell in increasing numbers.

Fostering.net had around 600 visitors a week in its first month and by May this year the number had risen to around 2,000. During Foster Care Fortnight (24 June to 7 July), the site received more than 20,000 visitors and the time spent on the site by each user increased by 50 per cent to three minutes. The web site has reduced the charity's print and post costs in relation to basic enquiries.

Around 215 local authorities out of 218 in the UK ran the poster campaign and by the end of the first week of Foster Care Fortnight 2002, the charity had sent out twice as many information packs compared with the year before.

The Fostering Network has received a good response from readers following the changes to Foster Care. The charity is currently developing an advertising strategy for the publication, which includes approaching supermarkets to provide food vouchers in return for advertising space.

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