Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fosters - Finding and Keeping


Choosing Fosters

Rescues should have an interview/application process for fosters that is the same as or similar to their adoption process for two reasons

Foster Failures - Many of your foster parents will fall in love with the dog or cat they are fostering for you. If the foster parents have already been screened, then this will be a simple and rewarding process for you, the foster parents and especially the fur babies.

If the potential foster parents are a poor parents to their own pets, then you don't want them caring for your fosters. You don't want your fosters abused, chained, left outside in inclement weather, allowed to roam at large, etc..

Where to find fosters

Some businesses highly encourage volunteering among their staff and they have volunteer suggestions posted for them. See if you can get on those lists: USAA, South Texas Research are probably two.

Get on lists with United Way, Petfinders, Volunteer Match, etc.. These are some sites where volunteers can enter their preferences and volunteer opportunities are shown to them

Post your needs on community calendars and pet forums such as SAPAWS. Even consider craigslist but just be extra careful about screening.

Training fosters

Don't assume that just because your fosters are animal lovers that they know very basic animal care. Have extensive written procedures in place and provide verbal training for very basic care (feeding, watering, cleaning, exercising ) and more advanced care (neonatal, mama dogs/cats, broken limbs, heartworms, pregnancy, etc..)

Motivating Fosters

Promote a since of belonging, caring, appreciation

Talk to foster parents about their interests, hobbies, work, human children, etc.. Not only will this establish rapport, but you will also get a sense how they can best help your organization. Example: If your foster parent works full time, then a litter of one week old puppies won't be reasonable, but an older dog on cage rest might be okay

In addition to the initial training, provide additional/follow-up training programs and seminars to fosters. Get trainers/behaviorists, vets to provide seminars to your people

Have foster/volunteer luncheons, dinners, pot lucks, meetups when possible

Network with local businesses to see if you can get "freebies" to give away to your fosters/volunteers - the gift doesn't have to be expensive - just something to show that you are thinking of them.

Call them every once in a while to see how they are doing

Let foster parents stay involved in the process from beginning to end. Get their input on care, training issues. Let them interview prospective adopters and do home visits. Let them do follow-up phone calls after adoption.


Have all fosters sign a contract containing very specific criteria

How the animals will be cared for (indoor, outdoor, exercised, etc..)

Who pays the bills (food, medication, toys, crates, emergency vet visit, etc..)

Who screens adopters (how much say the foster parents will have in choosing a permanent parent)

What happens if an adopter is approved and a foster decides he/she wants to keep the pet instead

What to do in an emergency

Will they be required to attend a set number of mobile events

Is a vehicle required

Is a valid driver's lisence required

Physical requirements

Language requirements

Don't reinvent the wheel

Network with other agencies and use some of their materials. Humane Society and Animal Defense have some good info on their websites - including information on neonatal care, and working with shy dogs. Contact HS, ADL, others and ask if you can copy, use some of their written procedures, contracts, handbooks, etc.. Townlake in Austin might


This group just started up a facebook page. They said they are bringing training to San Antonio!/pages/The-Animal-Foster-Network/164366841730

Attend volunteer training/seminars whenever available for continual training, networking - this can be for the rescue and the foster parents. Here is one

Information from a past seminar - good links at the end of the slide show:

Regular volunteer administrator meetings in San Antonio:

Petsmart Charities webinars often have very useful information and folks can interact on the web - ask questions, provide info, etc..

Here is a paper I did on volunteering - the numbers (data analysis) is mostly made up but the literature review is all real


Can't find a seminar or networking venue that suits you? Then create your own and invite others to join. is a great way to find people with similar interests. Not only will you learn and share ideas, but this can also help to promote that sense of belonging that some of your fosters and volunteers will need to stay motivated.

Other Resources:!/rescuematters

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