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.
Animal Friends of Pittsburgh, PA, fostered 864 animals in 2009 with a network of approximately 269 foster homes for dogs and cats. Says Chief Operating Officer Kathleen Beaver, “We offer just about every type of foster care, including neonatal bottle feeding, geriatric care of older cats and behavior care for cats with socialization issues. Not only does our foster program allow us to extend our ability to help more cats beyond the confines of our shelter walls, it also provides us the opportunity to keep cats with specific issues healthy and well-socialized so they can be adopted more quickly.” The foster program is overseen by the adoption and admissions coordinator and the admissions team leader.
After our volunteer orientation, attendees complete a volunteer opportunity form where they can indicate whether they would like to foster cats, dogs and/or rabbits. The form is then given to the adoption and admissions coordinator, who contacts them about the next foster care class. We also send eblasts to volunteers to let them know when foster classes are being held. Every foster family receives training, as well as a comprehensive manual and guidebook to assist them with their foster animals. There is a special phone extension so foster homes can reach our medical staff in an emergency for consult or to be directed to emergency care. We retain fosters by putting them with animals best suited to their experience level, lifestyle and home environment. Then we work to make sure they have everything they need for a successful fostering experience. Additionally, since foster families do their volunteering in their own homes, we offer the opportunity for them to get together and talk about their experiences through an annual foster “social.”
Our foster parents must become volunteers first and are screened by the volunteer coordinator. We also have a foster care application process.
All available animals are showcased on our website, as well as on fliers at the shelter and in the community. Foster parents are encouraged to bring their fosters who are available for adoption to community off-site events. Our foster parents do not adopt cats/kittens from their homes; all animals come to Animal Friends to be adopted. If a foster animal does not show well at Animal Friends, we can permit the approved applicant to meet the pet at the foster parent’s home. If all goes well, the applicant then comes to Animal Friends to complete the paperwork.
Del Monte sponsors the food that we feed shelter and foster animals, and litter and medical care are provided by Animal Friends.