When some of our Pet Foster Stimulus Grant recipients saw how many foster families ended up adopting their foster pets, it sparked them to consider a concept they hadn’t previously considered – a foster to adopt program.
“We typically just wanted to adopt straight out of the shelter,” said Kelly Mitchell, Senior Director at Mountain Humane in Hailey, ID. “We’ve always been hesitant because we don’t want animals to miss adopters since we’re a transient community, it’s mostly out of town people.” The grant helped them buy supplies as their community does not have a large availability of supplies since they are primarily a resort town.
The grant allowed Mountain Humane to discover that foster was a huge tool, and they saw so many of what we like to call, “foster wins” – when the foster home adopts their foster pet!
Similarly, Becky Risler, Director of Administration at Prairie Paws in Ottawa, KS, shared that her animal welfare organization embraced a foster to adopt program as well. “We used the Shelter Luv software, which has made it so easy to switch that person over from being a foster to adopter,” said Risler. “It takes less than five minutes!”
Mountain Humane has ended up implementing their foster to adopt program as a permanent program to allow individuals to have the opportunity to foster the pet before they commit to adoption. The program helped move more animals through their shelter faster among other benefits as well. “We actually see fewer adoption returns, because people are able to meet the animal in their home,” said Mitchell.
Why haven’t animal welfare organizations embraced foster to adopt programs before? Rick Alexander, Shelter Director, from Orphans of the Storm in Riverwoods, IL, said that, “There was concern about foster to adopt because it goes against everything I know in the industry, of saying ‘Hey try it before you buy it’ is not something that we do.”
When they saw how many fosters were adopting their foster pets, they decided to pivot. Due to Covid-19, they reopened in June on an appointment only basis, but the public was only allowed to meet the animals for a restricted amount of time. “And because of that we had concerns about returns or mismatching with animals because 30 minutes is not enough time sometimes to know if it’s a good fit.”
This caused them to lean in further into foster to adopt, openly offer all of their animals to be a part of the foster to adopt program to reduce the pressure on potential adopters to make a decision in a short period of time. “This allowed us to focus on follow-up care, and make sure each animal is settling in really well.” Their foster to adopt program proved to be successful. The month of July was the highest month for adoptions in past 18 months!