Stephanie Jackson was still fairly new to foster coordination when she arrived in Austin, TX for Maddie’s® Medium and Large Adult Dog Foster Apprenticeship in early 2017. She spent the next few days learning everything she could from her instructors and her peers.
“When I was in Austin, I learned how to place medium to large dogs in to foster care,” said Jackson. “We were taught how to implement lifesaving programs like short-term fostering, sleepovers and field trips. I was given tools to build our foster program, such as copies of waivers, manuals, and examples of success stories from other shelters. We were taught to remove barriers, be open minded, and ask the community- tell them when you need help. Honesty goes a long way.”
When Jackson returned home to Louisville Metro Animal Services (LMAS), she hit the ground running. “As soon as I got back from Austin, I gathered my ‘tool kit’ that Kristen and Kelly hammered in to us and scheduled a meeting with upper management,” says Jackson. “I presented field trip data and proposed a piloted field trip program. I didn’t ask for anything. I used the relationships I built through the apprenticeship to reach out for help on paperwork, protocols and SOPs. I had everything ready for them and had an answer to all their questions… specifically liability, training and staff involvement. I didn’t ask for staff to take away from what they already did or add to their workload- I did it all (at first). I also removed barriers from the foster application, care guide, and made after-hours emergency assistance easier. I created our [volunteer and foster] Facebook group and encouraged everyone to share their photos and stories.”
Over the next two years, Jackson doubled the number of pets she placed in foster care and built a wildly successful field trip program that was honored with a Critic’s Choice Award from a local magazine (”Best Hour of Your Life”). Her programs helped set the stage for LMAS to cut behavioral euthanasia of dogs in half.
“Behavior euthanasia went down quite a bit,” she says. “I cried every day when I started working here. After the apprenticeship, I was able to develop programs to help the dogs that were being euthanized. It felt SO GOOD to see dogs that struggled behind a barrier walk out of here every day on a field trip and finally go to a family who saw them for who they really were.”
If you’re looking to grow your foster program, Jackson has some advice for you.
- Embrace change, and don’t give up. “I didn’t take no for an answer from management,” she says. “I kept pushing for a yes.”
- Talk to your teammates every single day about fostering. Share photos with your coworkers and show them how foster care is positively affecting the pets in your care.
- Build relationships with your fosters. Don’t just build a program; build a lifesaving team.
- Use social media every day. Market the pets in your care and ask for help when you need it.
- Utilize your support system. “One of biggest things I got out of the Maddie’s Fund apprenticeship was building relationships with other animal welfare advocates across the country,” says Jackson. “Building relationships with these warriors truly motivated me to and save more lives.”
Are you looking to grow your foster program? We have some great resources for you, too! You can sign up for an in-person apprenticeship, an online class or chat with other foster coordinators in Maddie’s Pet Forum!