Arizona Department of Child Safety (AZDCS) is a government agency assigned to protect the safety and well-being of all Arizona children. AZDCS's mission is to successfully engage children and families to ensure safety, strengthen families, and achieve permanency. As a government agency, AZDCS keeps public perception and sentiment top of mind. After significant changes in leadership and enhanced focus from state officials, their new Comms director and director of foster and adoptive supports turned to LaneTerralever as a strategic partner for change.
AZDCS focuses on several services to help the children of Arizona. They include:
Both reunification and adoption are permanent options so that children do not remain in the system.
At the start of the relationship, AZDCS was experiencing a massive internal shift, with new leadership establishing a metric-based culture. Previously, their communications efforts were approached in silos with mixed messaging and unclear calls-to-action for the public. With this, a number of departments within the agency were looking for creative marketing that could help them achieve their new measurable goals, such as employee retention, public sentiment, and foster parent recruitment. Because of our previous government marketing experience, we partnered with AZDCS to give a cohesive voice to the department that the public would relate to.
Like many child welfare systems across the country, AZDCS is no stranger to criticism and poor sentiment. AZDCS averaged only 7% positive sentiment on earned media. With the majority of media coverage reporting on sensationalist and sad stories of foster care, it is difficult for AZDCS to earn the trust and support of the public they serve. This distrust for the system, current foster parents, and specialists detracted potential parents and new specialists from joining the ranks.
Government agencies have a negative reputation for bureaucracy that stifles creativity and efficient processes. Along with this industry-wide image, AZDCS layers on the nuances of policy, child welfare, and deep-rooted emotions between families and specialists. Understanding these nuances and how departments interact would be crucial for any campaign to be successful.
The subject matter is often sensitive and complex. Our team needed to understand the nuances of child welfare cases, AZDCS policy, and the complicated emotions that develop between families, whether birth, foster, or adopted. Unfortunately, abuse and neglect in our society touch every race, age, gender, and socioeconomic status. As such, it was critical for our campaigns to reflect the diversity of Arizona’s society and history.
At the heart of the LaneTerralever and AZDCS relationship is the desire to get the message out about the children in care in Arizona. This desire led us to our strategy - create one targeted message across independent campaigns that puts the children’s stories first. When children are in the care of AZDCS, they are the responsibility of all of the citizens of Arizona.
The decision to foster a child is not an easy one. Parents often have fears about what it will mean for their family to take in a foster child and how the dynamic might change. With these concerns in mind, we decided to create a campaign that spoke to foster parents of the future, from the people involved in fostering now.
This campaign was created to reach faith-based, LGBTQ+, and empty nester audiences because they are likely to be interested in fostering or adoption. Other audiences such as Native Americans, were targeted in order to recruit foster parents from this specific demographic based on need. Knowing how important it was to serve specific messaging to each audience, we created a campaign with a universal message that drove to individualized landing pages. Each group we were hoping to show our message to could then consume a message tailored uniquely to them.
When it came to execution, we needed to get to the heart of things. We tapped former foster children, parents, and siblings and asked them to write a letter to the foster parents of the future. We then had them read their letter on video to share from their heart what a future foster parent should look like. In addition to the videos, we used social posts, a landing page, and out-of-home to drive a 45% increase in year-over-year foster parent leads for AZDCS through this campaign.
Nearly half of all cases within AZDCS end in reunification - the number-one goal of the department after child safety. In cases where reunification cannot be attained and parental rights are severed, the Arizona Children's Heart Gallery gives these children a shot at finding their forever family through adoption. In 2018/2019, LaneTerralever was tasked with redesigning the Children’s Heart Gallery, an online resource for potential adoptive parents to learn more about children awaiting homes in Arizona.
This redesign needed to accomplish several things. First, the kids needed to be highlighted in a way that would capture the attention of potential parents. Second, there needed to be a way to filter so that sibling groups would also garner special attention from viewers. And last, we needed to make the Children’s Heart Gallery a place where people wanted to come and learn about these kids.
Our solution was simple, but the finer details really made it come to life. We created a modern, mobile-friendly experience that was more closely aligned with the AZDCS brand and highlighted the children in a fun and colorful way, allowing their personalities to shine through. Finally, we created new video content that showcases the volunteer experience and gives more detail about The Children’s Heart Gallery to drive engagement and increase volunteer sign-ups. These efforts yielded results that were mostly unseen to the public but gave kids looking for homes a chance to be seen.
In addition to creating a new website for The Children's Heart Gallery, we also conducted proactive pitching on behalf of AZDCS to get the stories of these children featured in news outlets across Arizona. As a result, the public can now see a monthly carousel of photos featured on the AZ Family website to provide these children with the exposure they deserve.
The specialists who facilitate services for foster children and their birth parents are the true beating heart of AZDCS. This difficult and demanding job comes with negative public perception on top of the already challenging day-to-day work, which makes this heroic job seem less than worthwhile. This sentiment called for one thing: rebranding the job.
Meet the Compassioneers. This concept positions specialists and other AZDCS staff not as government employees, but instead as individuals, working to build a thriving future of compassion for Arizona’s children. In rebranding at an employee level, AZDCS was able to internalize the vital nature of their job, leading to increased employee retention. In addition, the team members of AZDCS look forward to sharing their stories more than ever before, helping to further the mission that they are all a part of.
Another arm of AZDCS, the Office of Prevention, is responsible for initiatives that proactively protect the children in Arizona. In 2019, the focus of this office landed on safe sleep for babies and infants.
Knowing that many infant fatalities in Arizona are caused by an unsafe sleeping environment, we went to work creating a campaign that would educate the community on the ABCs of safe sleep – babies should sleep alone, on their back, and in a crib. The creative for this campaign featured sleeping babies in safe environments, accompanied by statistics and best practices. In addition to social posts and a new safe sleep landing page, we also had the power of video to drive our message home.
In addition, AZDCS created a video that was promoted in conjunction with this campaign and featured real stories from parents who had lost their children due to unsafe sleep environments. The impact of this video was a broad awareness of just how dangerous it can be for a baby to sleep in an unsafe space. The overall performance of this campaign was extremely positive and garnered the most social engagement AZDCS has seen in the 24 hours after launch.
The overall results of our work with AZDCS managed to achieve their initial goal – rebuilding trust with the public in Arizona. By the end of 2019, AZDCS saw a direct flip from 30/70 mostly negative sentiment to 70/30 mostly positive sentiment for the department overall. In addition, the number of foster parents recruited was up year-over-year, meaning more children found safe and loving homes. Here is where we were able to move the needle the most:
"I am so humbled and honored to serve with all of you here at DCS. I also am ever so grateful for our partnership with the great people at LaneTerralever, and consider each of you part of our team."
"Passion drives the work I do at DCS. It has been an honor and privilege to share this passion with our team at LT. It’s been amazing to see them grow and match the passion that we have about our work with children and families in Arizona."