Commonwealth of Virginia Recruitment Multi-Media Promotional Campaign

Deadline: February 6


A. The purpose of this Request for Proposal (RFP) is to solicit sealed proposals to establish a contract through competitive negotiation for the purchase of Advertising and Marketing services to create a targeted awareness campaign for the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS). To ensure that the public has a clear understanding of the Kin First philosophy, kinship care, kinship families, the Faster Families Highway recruitment portal and how they relate to the larger VDSS effort to “promote the well-being of children and families” throughout the Commonwealth. It is critical to keep children entering foster care connected to their families and home communities as the children and their primary family navigate the path to reunification. Resource families serve as a stabilizing structure for children with love, compassion, commitment, and respect for the primary family of the children in their care. Resource families provide nurturing environments that help children in their care remain connected to their primary families and home communities to reduce the impact of separation-related trauma. Kinship care provides consistency and keeps children connected with their families and communities. The Faster Families Highway is a great tool to connect qualified prospective resource families with Local Department of Social Services (LDSS) and children and their primary families when children need of out-of-home care because they are unable to stay with their primary family.

B. Informational Purposes:

1. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: VDSS is a diverse, multi-racial and multicultural organization. Our commitment to fully embrace diversity, equity and inclusion is central to our mission, embedded in our core values and critical to the well-being of our staff and the communities we

serve. As human service professionals, our success rests in our ability to cultivate inclusive environments, promote equitable outcomes, and demonstrate leadership through service. We all must choose to be informed, self-reflective and proactive in our advocacy. This includes constant evaluation of structures, norms and policies that perpetuate discrimination, racism, disparities and exclusion. This also includes full embedding our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion into specific and actionable practices throughout our entire social services system.

2. Unite Us: Contracted service providers are highly encouraged to join Unite Virginia, a statewide coordinated care network of health and social service providers. Partners in the network send and receive closed-loop, secure, electronic referrals across multiple sectors and organizations through the shared Unite Us platform. The platform enables providers to track every person’s total health journey and report on tangible outcomes.

Unite Us is the vendor selected by the state to power the Unite Virginia network and is partnering with the Office of the Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources, Virginia Department of Social Services, the Virginia Department of Health, Optima Health, Kaiser Permanente, the Virginia Mental Health Access Program, Partnering for a Healthy Virginia, and Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, among others. The platform is available at no cost to nonprofits and many organizations that are part of the safety net, like community health centers and mental health

centers. For more information and to join, please visit  II. BACKGROUND

The VDSS is responsible for administering a variety of permanency-related programs that support reunification of children in care and their parents (primary family) that include Foster Care, Adoption, Kinship, and Interstate/Intercountry Placement of Children and Family Engagement. Virginia is a state supervised, locally administered Child Welfare System (CWS) with 120 LDSS.

In Virginia, when children are temporarily unable to live with their parents, LDSS are charged to identify and evaluate relatives and/or fictive kin (someone who has a significant emotional relationship with a child neither born to them nor blood related to them) as the primary kinship placement option.

This arrangement is called kinship care. Kinship care is the full-time care and nurturing of a child by a relative or someone who has a significant emotional relationship with a child not born to them. It is often looked to when children must be separated from their primary family, either informally or formally by court order. Informal kinship care occurs when the arrangements are made by the child’s primary family and relatives (other blood related family members) without any involvement from the court or CWS. Formal kinship care occurs because of a determination by the court and/or the CWS and involves parenting of children by relatives, extended family or fictive kin. When placement with relatives is not an option, LDSS works to identify and support non-relative foster families (resource family) within the child’s home community and in proximity to the child’s primary family.

Virginia endeavors to preserve family connections between children and their families, cultures, traditions, and communities as they pursue the goal of reunification. In 2022, VDSS successfully launched the Faster Families Highway recruitment portal to bolster non-relative foster care recruitment in alignment with the larger VDSS effort to “promote the well-being of children and families” throughout the Commonwealth. It is critical to keep children entering foster care connected to their primary family and home communities as children and their parents navigate the path to reunification.

Resource families serve as a stabilizing structure for children with love, compassion, commitment, and respect for the primary family of the children in their care and not as a replacement for their primary family. Resource families provide nurturing environments that help children in their care remain connected to their primary family and home communities reducing the impact of separation-related trauma. The Faster Families Highway has proven to be an effective digital tool for connecting qualified eligible prospective resource families with LDSS and the primary families of children in need of outof-home care.

In Virginia, there is a particular need for resource families willing to welcome teens, children with special needs, and sibling groups into their homes. In just the first year of its launch, the Faster Families Highway bridge that gap for those children. According to fourth-quarter data, VDSS has seen 45 percent of new applicants’ express interest in fostering children 12 years of age and older, and 50 percent of applicants are open to sibling groups.

With Virginia’s identification as a Kin First state, we champion Kin First culture by prioritizing kinship care. It is imperative that kinship caregivers have the support and resources they need for changing family dynamics, financial and legal obligations, and permanency when a child is placed in their care.

Kinship care is important because studies show that children living with family and/or extended family: experience fewer placement changes, have fewer behavioral problems, are more likely to live with their siblings, more likely to report they “always felt loved”, are less likely to run away, experience fewer placement changes and are less likely to change schools or re-enter foster care. This alternative living arrangement often keeps children in their familiar schools, with their friends. Kinship care promotes stability and fosters healing.

With VDSS successful launch of the recruitment portal, Faster Families Highway, non-relative recruitment has increased. Now is the time to take it to the next level by articulating and executing a strategy for growth through general and targeted recruitment and education that will increase engagement and the number of eligible prospective families as well as awareness. This strategy includes both engaging eligible prospective families that are curious about learning or interested in becoming resource families of children, teens, children with special needs, and sibling groups along with the promotion of kinship care awareness. We are now prioritizing both educating and engaging Virginians in general and targeted recruitment messaging that encourages the use of the Faster Families Highway portal and highlights the role of relatives in children’s lives once children enter the CWS. This initiative informs Virginians on why and how to utilize the Faster Families Highway; how children thrive best in the familial setting of kinship care; how the role of a resource family is not to save children from their primary families, but rather to nurture and support children and their primary families as they work towards reunification.


VDSS seeks to promote statewide recruitment and retention of non-relative foster care families with the goal of increasing awareness of the need for prospective eligible families interested in and desiring to become resource parents to children, teens, children with special needs, and sibling groups. VDSS equally seeks to promote statewide awareness of Kin First culture and philosophy with the goal of educating and increasing awareness of the role and importance of kinship families and the support they can provide when children in their family or extended family in need of an out-of-home placement. This general and targeted recruitment effort is to inform, to engage, to keep children in care connected to their culture and community when out-of-home placement is needed, and to promote family reunification. Utilizing data from research provided by VDSS, the vendor will collaborate with VDSS to identify fresh approaches to messaging and recruitment, design creative and multimedia assets, develop integrated and omnichannel marketing strategies and deliverables, and position VDSS to further its Kin First culture priorities to meet the moment and set the stage for future growth and goals.  VDSS endeavors to partner with the right talent and expertise to provide the leverage needed to inspire compassion for children when circumstances necessitate out-of-home placement, curiosity for how to become a foster parent, and a proclivity for kinship care. The Statement of Needs should describe in general terms, the service to be performed or the goods to be purchased, including quantity, if applicable. Specifications and/or drawings may be referenced by attachment.

A. Project Goals:

1. VDSS is looking to partner with a vendor to create a targeted awareness campaign that shall promote statewide recruitment and retention of non-relative resource families with the following goals through the:

a. utilization of data-driven demographic, geographic and psychographic insights provided by VDSS to develop targeted marketing strategies that engage and increase the number of eligible resource families,

b. increased awareness of the need and process for eligible prospective families interested in or desiring to become resource families for children in general and teens, children with special needs, and sibling groups in particular,

c. increased placements of sibling groups with the same resource family, and

d. increased usage of the Faster Families Highway for non-relative recruitment.

2. VDSS equally seeks to promote statewide awareness of Kin First culture and philosophy.

The goal is to educate and increase awareness of kinship families and kinship care and the role and importance of family and the support they can provide when children in their family or extended family need out-of-home placement through:

a. increased awareness and understanding of Kin First culture, kinship families, kinship care and the importance of preserving family connections, and

b. increased awareness of how children achieve permanency through kinship care when they cannot return home.

B. Planning and Implementation

The Offeror shall:

a. Collaborate with program leads and other support personnel to conceptualize, design, layout, develop, and disseminate a myriad of dynamic and multimedia materials to promote the dignity, worth and diversity of resource families and children living in kinship homes.

b. Identify and employ a variety of digital advertising targeting methods based on online and offline behaviors and geographic characteristics and needs.

c. Define a Plan of Action comprise of project goals, objectives, key milestones, tasks, deliverables and key performance indicators.

d. Conduct strict quality control review process with multiple levels/types of reviews technical review, peer review, 100% inspection.

e. Obtain required approvals.

C. Evaluation and Closeout

The Offeror shall:

a. Provide measurements and track project performance proactively identifying areas for improvement or corrective action.

b. Submit ongoing status reports and facilitate meetings to provide full transparency into progress.

c. Conduct lessons learned to ensure that future projects benefit from successes and avoid missteps.

d. Store all project files in a repository to facilitate knowledge management.

D. Strategic Plan

The Offeror shall:

a. Work closely with staff from the Division of Public Affairs (PA) before developing overall communications plans to refine brand architecture and creative aesthetic considering current recruitment efforts and the Faster Families Highway’s recent and future impact.

b. Assess VDSS brand architecture and meet with VDSS representatives to better understand what they have found engaging and useful in recent outreach efforts.

This shall require a review of existing content, videos, graphics and other distributed materials.

c. Help assess the relevance of VDSS existing materials, communications channels and prior marketing approaches and effectiveness in reaching targeted audience.

d. Review the results of the research provided by VDSS and shall compile and analyze the results to begin communications planning. The results shall inform the necessary strategies and materials required to be developed in support of those strategies (including but not limited to digital ads, social media graphics, flyers, radio spots and billboards).

E. Communications Plan

The Offeror shall:

a. Develop a comprehensive communications plan that shall promote the following: promote VDSS brand, recruitment, retention, and the Faster Families Highway in a way that ensures increased participation.

b. Align the communications plan with an overall strategy that maximizes all creative channels including writing and graphic design to fully accomplish the mission.

c. Provide an executive summary of the plan and recommendations to VDSS for review. This summary shall also discuss any anticipated negative and unintended consequences and avoidance and/or mitigation strategies.

d. The communications plan has five steps as described below:

i. Step 1. Set Quantifiable Goals and Objectives – The Offeror shall set the primary target audience based upon research provided by VDSS. Objectives must be created to achieve those goals. All proposed communication activities, planning and implementation shall be tied to the Offerors created objectives and reviewed by PA. These objectives shall also be utilized to create monitoring metrics, and ultimately, facilitate program evaluation.

ii. Step 2. Advise Creative Design – Suggestions for final messages shall be provided to the designated Program Manager. The Offeror must guide PA to deliver these messages in various formats based on the results of the research provided by VDSS. These formats include but are not limited to digital ads, posters, infographics, brochures, television spots and radio spots, which contain written content accompanied by graphics, images, color, fonts and other creative elements. Multiple interpretations of these materials shall be tested with representatives of the target audiences for comprehension, aesthetic appeal, acceptability, identification, and persuasion. Final materials must be submitted to the Program Manager for approval. The Offeror must understand that the research, provided by VDSS, informing these steps may include focus groups, market research (insights and trends from similar agencies/companies), group testing and in-depth interviews, surveys, and specialized branding research.

iii. Step 3. Advise Selection of Communication Channels –The Offeror shall provide insight into which channels are most effective with the target audiences. This includes providing VDSS an outreach calendar with media buys that correlates with relevant dates, events and initiatives for the statewide and national celebration of Foster Care Awareness Month.

Reaching these audiences when they are receptive to the messages and materials is key to success. This approach ensures that spending of campaign funds is done effectively and efficiently, and not wasted on serving ads to uninterested or irrelevant audiences.

iv. Step 4. Develop an Implementation Plan – Once the messages, materials and channels are finalized, the Offeror must work with PA to develop the campaign implementation plan, including a detailed timeline of all proposed activities, including content development, allowing enough time for needed approvals and revisions.

v. Step 5. Evaluate the Communication Effort – The Offeror shall work with

VDSS Program Manager to monitor and assess the impact of the communications activities. Key metrics, aligned with each project’s goals and objectives, will be created, and captured using the VDSS research approaches as discussed. VDSS Program Manager and PA shall analyze the resulting data to evaluate plan results and recommend adjustments to communication strategies and tactics as needed to improve results.

F. Contractor Qualifications

The Offeror shall demonstrate successful experience by providing:

a. At least three (3) examples of similar-sized services, demonstrate successful awareness campaigns to the complexity as required in this RFP and the associated cost for each example.

b. A key part of this RFP’s evaluation criteria is the Offeror’s demonstrated effectiveness with providing similar services in the relevant market/s.

c. Timely in reporting requirements.

d. Experience staying within budgets and schedules.


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