April 30, 2020
Categories: Foster Programs

Maddie’s® Foster Express Challenge called on participating shelters to focus on short-term fostering to help get more dogs and cats out of the shelter during the hectic holiday season, get them more exposure and attract new foster caregivers. Short-term fostering for the challenge was defined as stays in foster care of more than two hours and two weeks or less. These inspired short-term fostering ideas like sleepovers (1-2 nights), holiday fostering and off-site field trips that last 2 hours or more. While the challenge took place from December 2019 to January 2020 with a focus on getting more animals into homes for the holidays, many shelters saw positive results that they carried on into their normal fostering programs, regardless of the season.

Given the current coronavirus pandemic and many shelters needing to resort to foster care to keep pets safe and healthy, we’ll be sharing exclusive interviews on Maddie’s Pet Forum with several of the winning shelters in hopes to inspire your own foster program – whether there are tactics you can try now or keep in your back pocket until after the shelter in place restrictions have been lifted. For each winner, we’ll feature their story here on the blog and we’ll share any resources, examples as well as a Q and A with the organization over on Maddie’s Pet Forum so be sure you’re a member! 

Rainbow Friends Animal Sanctuary (RFAS) was no stranger to short-term fostering. Located in Hawaii, RFAS was well-versed in overnight and weekend fostering and kitten fostering. 

As a result of the Foster Express Challenge, their foster network grew significantly and many fosters turned into permanent family members. “The overwhelming support and enthusiasm for participating was a very pleasant and welcome surprise,” said Lauren Riga, Executive Director. She also said the active participation in the community had a dramatically positive impact on existing programs. In all, 118 animals went on 211 trips!

Short-term fostering could also be a key component to increasing adoptions. Riga was surprised by how many overnight and weekend foster pets turned into adoptions. Once you have all the family members on-board for a short-term foster, it’s a little easier to get them to agree to an adoption. “In many cases, all it took was the welcoming of the pet into the house for a short period of time for the entire family to fall in love and adopt their new furry relative,” Riga said. “It was so beautiful to see so many overnights and weekends turn into forever homes.” 

Riga also shared some words of wisdom when it came to starting up your own program. Planning upfront can save you headaches later. “A big incentive for taking the time upfront to develop your short-term fostering program framework is because it will facilitate the execution of putting the program into practice, ongoing participation will run easier and the program will be more resilient to unknowns that will inevitably pop up,” she said. “Even a basic framework will provide a foundation that will increase your chances of success tenfold.”

Riga says a framework and implementation strategy can include:

  1. Establishing a system for collecting/tracking information
  2. Developing protocols around carrying out the different short-term fostering options and requirements
  3. Put into effect a clear method of communication for the volunteers, staff and participants, where accurate and up-to-date information can flow efficiently and with ease

Because of their planning, they were well-prepared to take on the surge of interested and active fosters due to COVID-19. Once again, many of these short-term fosters turned into permanent adoptions. 

Sometimes all you need to do is get one paw in the door. 

Head on over to Maddie’s Pet Forum to view examples of marketing, resources used and to ask Rainbow Friends’ any questions you may have!