Lowering barriers is a key element to attracting and keeping foster caregivers. Kelly Duer, Senior Community Solutions Specialist, here at Maddie’s Fund® spoke with Becky Costner, Executive Director of Let Love Live, a foster-based rescue organization in Wadena, Minnesota, to ask her about their low-barrier foster program. Using a “Fosters Welcome” approach is a big part of their recipe for success: in 2022 for the first time, they were able to transfer in over one thousand pets. In 2023, they’re on track to transfer even more.
How easy is it to become a foster at your organization, and how long does the process usually take?
We are continuously reviewing our foster (and adoption) sign up form to make sure they are quick, easy and streamlined while making sure someone doesn’t come across a question that they think would make them not be approved so would discourage them from applying. Many times new fosters can get approved and set up same day with a pet.
Since its implementation, the low barrier foster onboarding process has significantly improved our ability to recruit dedicated and compassionate foster parents. Here are some of the key reasons why it has been a game-changer:
Increased Accessibility: By reducing barriers and simplifying the application process, we have seen a surge in the number of individuals interested in fostering. This inclusivity has welcomed individuals who may have hesitated to apply before, thereby expanding our pool of potential foster parents.
Diverse Perspectives: The low barrier approach has allowed us to attract a diverse range of foster parents from various backgrounds and experiences. This diversity enriches our fostering community and enables us to cater to the unique needs of our animals.
Flexibility and Convenience: The simplified onboarding process has made it easier for individuals with busy schedules or other commitments to become foster parents. As a result, we have seen an increase in long-term foster commitments from individuals who were previously unable to participate.
More Frequent Applications: Our low barrier approach has enabled interested individuals to apply quickly and efficiently. As a result, we receive a higher volume of applications, giving us more opportunities to match animals with suitable foster homes promptly.
Positive Word of Mouth: Our foster parents have shared their positive experiences with friends and family, generating positive word of mouth. This organic endorsement has encouraged others to consider fostering, further expanding our fostering community.
Stronger Foster Support System: With a larger pool of foster parents, we have been able to strengthen our support system, providing more resources, guidance, and assistance to both new and experienced fosters. This enhanced support ensures our animals receive the best care possible.
Saving More Lives: The increased number of foster homes means we can rescue and care for more animals in need. This lifesaving impact is at the core of our mission, and the low barrier foster onboarding has played a significant role in achieving it.
We have continued to grow our foster base and during the process we have retained a lot of dedicated fosters who are with us for the long haul and now are assisting and overseeing other areas in our foster program too as volunteers.
Can you tell us a little about how you made the switch to low-barrier policies?
It first starts with everyone on your team. Make sure you have talked with your staff WHY you do it this way and answer their questions so they feel confident in your processes. If needed, have an easy-to-follow script that explains it that your team can then read. Have fosters speak out about the ease of fostering for your program and how quick it was to set up. They are your best advocates for your foster program. Clear transparency for the public and your supporters. Let your data speak for you too. If you don’t already track your data, start now. Track incidences such as lost dogs in foster, outbreaks in foster home-including resident pets, bite incidences in foster, how many foster placements didn’t work the first time and have to come back. All of this information can be used for continued public education and also for reassurances for your team and board/upper management.
If another organization was looking to make it easier to become a foster, what would you tell them
In the infamous words of Elsa … Let It Go!!! Let go of the control. Let go of the fear. Let go of the “what-ifs”…I remember in the beginning being so stressed of having fosters 3-4 hours away from our office and the struggle of reminding myself to be positive and to breathe…the barriers that I had always known as a justified way to ‘protect’ our org and the pets was a true facade. Our medical emergencies have been minimal. We’ve had no increase in dog bites or dog fights. No increase in lost or stolen dogs. People want to help.