Emergency foster care is a critical tool for organizations in crisis. It can increase an organization’s capacity, reduce strain on staff and help them better care for animals. It can be implemented by organizations in crisis and by those helping these organizations. Whether you’re a government shelter or a rescue organization, emergency foster care can help you save lives.
If shelters close to the public in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the need to continue to intake pets on an emergency basis without the outlet of adoptions could quickly become overwhelming. In order to create space in shelters before the crisis point is reached, consider utilizing emergency foster care.
How can shelters place a high volume of pets into foster care while keeping person-to-person contact to a minimum? They can follow a new emergency foster protocol, which hinges on these components:
- Streamline the process for becoming a foster. The process for becoming a foster should be simple and quick. Inefficient practices such as home visits, background checks, vet record checks and other requirements as barriers to fostering and should be removed. Instead, take a page from the open adoptions movement and make it easy for supporters to help your pet through foster care.
- Gather your team. Non-essential staff may be able to be reallocated to supporting the foster program and/or caring for pets in the shelter. Volunteers – especially those who know the animals well, can help with foster logistics, mentor new fosters and more.
- Create a call to action and notify your community. We suggest asking for fosters willing to care for a pet for a minimum of four weeks. Clarify details such as which supplies your organization can provide and what things fosters need to bring with them when they pick up their foster, your messaging should create urgency around your call to action. Send out a press release and create multiple social media posts to let your supporters know you need them.
- Move the onboarding process online. Potential fosters should be able to do as much of the onboarding process as possible online. In addition to asking questions about a person’s home and contact information, the online application should ask questions about the humans and other pets living in the home to help you match them with a pet. Any foster counseling can be done online via online services such as Zoom or Google.
- Make smart matches. Applicants who have no children or other pets should be asked if they are interested in taking a dog or cat who can only be placed in one of these homes first. American Pets Alive!’s protocol for matching adult dogs with fosters can be found here.
- Minimize person-to-person contact. Don’t ask people to gather in groups. Pet pickups can be scheduled in advance with programs like SignUp Genius or Acuity Scheduling. This way, fosters can stay in their car or wait outside while a staff member brings them their new foster pet.
- Market pets for adoption from foster care. Teach foster caregivers how to help you by marketing foster pets for adoption online and allow their to adopt pets from their homes.
Looking for more advice on how to operate safely during COVID-19? Download American Pets Alive!’s COVID-19 Preparedness Guide.