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Rescue Group Best Practices: foster homes

Foster homes are the backbone of many rescue groups—without a strong network of foster providers, rescue groups simply could not take in as many animals. Having a structured fostering program is essential to the organization’s ability to care for animals.

Once you decide how to structure your fostering operations, develop a manual explaining your standard operating procedures. A foster manual for staff, volunteers and foster families to reference is critical; it should make clear how your program is structured, what the expectations are, who the primary contacts will be, how certain common situations will be handled and who to contact in case of a veterinary emergency. The foster manual must be easily accessible to foster providers at all times.

Make sure you are clear upfront about what expenses the rescue group will handle and which the foster provider will be responsible for. Be honest with foster providers about what they are getting themselves into and try to ease them in. Give new foster providers the easy charges until you have seen their dedication and pet care abilities. It is of course important that foster provider’s own pets are all healthy and generally well-cared for. Provide plenty of opportunities that help the foster providers get their animals adopted. Morale and motivation are higher when foster providers have frequent success and do not have animals staying in their homes for years on end. Remember that your foster providers may need an occasional break, especially the ones that take in hard cases.

Keep track of how many pets (owned and foster) each foster provider has at any given time and do not let well-intentioned people take on too many animals.