The following is from the Summer 2010 issue of Protecting Animals, American Humane’s quarterly journal for animal welfare professionals. Used by permission. To learn more, visit www.AmericanHumane.org.
“Thank goodness for fosters,” says Birgitte “B” Skielvig, executive director of the Humane Society of Sedona. The shelter has about 20 active foster care volunteers, including three who hand-raise kittens without moms, as well as litters with mothers. The volunteers have also fostered rabbits, birds, rats and a 3-week-old puppy.
Many of our fosters are recruited by other volunteers, but we also recruit with fliers and with information about fostering in the Adoption Gallery binders that we place in about 50 local businesses. All volunteers must complete an orientation session. Foster volunteers are then teamed up with veteran fosters to receive special training.
For record keeping, we use Adopt-A-Friend shelter software, which makes it easy to track where the animals are. When an animal first arrives, it goes into our isolation area for a few days for evaluation. If it is determined that the animal needs foster care, we make calls to find an appropriate foster home. Once the animals become available for adoption, we try to place them at off-site locations, such as our two local pet stores. The stores follow our adoption protocol, including faxing us the adoption application for our approval. Then they follow our guidelines for the paperwork and fee collection. When they adopt out an animal, we are there the next day with a new animal and to collect the paperwork.
Setting Limits/Compassion Fatigue
Generally, most foster people take one animal at a time. We have two wonderful volunteers who have one room in their home dedicated to foster animals. During our peak kitten season, they might have upwards of a dozen. These volunteers know their limits and tell us when enough is enough. They will make recommendations for euthanasia of animals they feel are simply too sick. Communication between them and us is essential. Both of these volunteers have lost animals, but are very accepting of the situation. Occasionally, they take some time off to regroup. Everyone needs to take a break in this business. We are extremely lucky to find levelheaded and understanding foster volunteers.
Most of our cat foster volunteers pay for their out-of-pocket costs. At the end of the year, they submit receipts for an in-kind donation tax break. Those on limited incomes get food and necessary items from us. We have an on-site vet clinic each week in case an animal needs specific care. All animals are sterilized before going up for adoption.