Webinar presenter Amy Yeager answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Building and Maintaining a Fostering Program. Here are just a few of her responses.
Audience Question: Are you at all concerned about the liability of the shelter? What if a dog bites a foster family?
Amy Yeager: In a foster application there is a Liability Waiver that they have to sign saying that they won’t hold the shelter reliable if a bite happens. But we do try to test on every dog and try not to send out anything that is a liability, but, of course, sometimes it does happen, but we try our best to prevent that.
Host: Got it. And so, so far, there hasn’t been a problem with that, it sounds like?
Amy Yeager: No, every once in a while, we get an occasional bite or a dog fight, because we don’t know much about the dogs that were sent into foster care. We will try to do our best with placing them successfully with a certain type of fosters. But it doesn’t happen very often.
Audience Question: Can you talk about what is required for an application to be a foster family approved? And we have other people in addition to that asks, do you do a background check or anything kind of a deeper understanding. Can you talk about your application process?
Amy Yeager: Sure, the application is online. We go into a little bit of detail on their living situation that they live in a home, if they rent, if they have a fence, we don’t require a fence, but we do ask certain questions just to get an understanding of what that foster home may have. Secondly, we don’t do background checks on fosters, but we do a background check sort of kind of in our system. So, where if you have any neglect charges on you, or tons of leash law violations, stuff like that, you probably wouldn’t get approved. Depending on the length of time, like if it was 10 years ago, then I will probably approve you, but that would be a conversation that I would have to have between me and that potential foster.
Audience Question: So, it sounds like you are doing a background check within your own system, to see if there’s some sort of history, but not outside of that, not like querying a criminal history database or anything like that.
Amy Yeager: Right.
Audience Question: How many animals do you send to foster annually? And how many animals do you have in foster on any given day?
Amy Yeager: So, right now, we have about 200 animals in foster care right now. Most of those are kittens. That is starting to kind of trickle-down annually. We probably put about 2000 animals in foster care, annually.
Audience Question: And then a follow-up question on the background check, do you work with the local law enforcement agency to do a local criminal history check to make sure that they don’t maybe have outstanding charges for animal cruelty or anything like that?
Amy Yeager: We don’t. So, if they had animal cruelty charges, that would be in our system. So, we just check our database to make sure they don’t have any prior animal cruelty charges or anything current.
Audience Question: How did you develop your foster application? Is there a template? Is it something that you might be able to share?
Amy Yeager: I can definitely share. It’s on our website, and it’s just the probably 20 questions on there, and a waiver. But that was before my time when they did the application. It’s actually not sure how they went about putting that on the website.
Host: Do you know the URL for your website? I was going to try to include a link for that if we’re able to.
Amy Yeager: Sure. It’s animals.cmpd.org. And the foster application will be under the volunteer foster tab, and that is how you can find our foster application.
Audience Question: Do you ever in-depth do a home check with the foster families?
Amy Yeager: No, we don’t. We don’t do home checks.
Audience Question: How many animals, on average do you have up for adoption, versus there for other reasons, such as medical, behavior, or age?
Amy Yeager: I’d say, about 10%, probably about 20% of our kennels are holds for evictions and medical cases. All the medical cases are put on the rescue list. So that will come to me, and I try to solicit rescues to get the medical cases out of here. And we do have about probably there’s like 600 animals here right now. Last week, we had a lot and we had to kind of put out a plea for people to come in, and we didn’t have any kennels available. So, we were able to get a lot of adoptions over the weekend, which is great, which helped out a lot with the space issue.
Audience Question: Do you have a strategy for re-engaging foster parents where they haven’t adopted an animal recently?
Amy Yeager: No, I’m not really, that’s something that we’re going to be working on, is, try to be more engaged if someone hasn’t fostered in a couple of months. To see if there’s anything that they need or what type of dog they want to foster. But we don’t have anything in place at this time to reach out to the people that hadn’t been fostered in a couple of months. We kind of leave it up to them when they’re ready, they see the dogs on Trello, and they can comment there on dogs or cats. We can leave it up to them, but I think it will be a good idea for us to do, put in place some contact for someone who hasn’t been fostered for a while.
Audience Question: So how did you decide to use Trello as opposed to maybe something that you could do for no cost? Like a Facebook.
Amy Yeager: Because we’re CMPS which is the police department. We’re not allowed to use social media. So, we had to come up with something different to where our foster people can see the dogs and cats that we have that are available, and that need foster.
Audience Question: Have you worked with anything like a Facebook group or anything like that? Is there any reason why that might not work just as well as Trello and not have a cost associated?
Amy Yeager: Yes, we are not allowed to do Facebook being part of the police department. They won’t allow us to be on social media, at all. Anything that has to do with animal control, they don’t want it on social media foster wise. We do have a social media account that one person does handle, she does everything. She’ll post for foster, and she’ll post like a dog is in foster and it needs some attention, but we can’t really have a specific group just for fosters.
Audience Question: How do you handle communicating consistent best practices with your foster network? Such as making sure that your fosters are aligned with best practices around training behavior and even something as simple as using harnesses versus collars?
Amy Yeager: All that communication is done via e-mail by me or my co-worker. So anytime something new comes up, any type of training, events, all that communication is done via e-mail.
Audience Question: Is any of that automated? So, maybe once a new family goes onto your list, going to a new foster family goes onto your list, they’re automatically receiving some of these best practices? Or is that just on an as-needed, or as information is available basis?
Amy Yeager: It’s as needed. I mean, I try to send out as many resources as I can when I approved the foster parent. So, I’m able to attach certain things to it because I send an approval e-mail to them once they’re approved. And I do attach certain things to keep them up to date.
Audience Question: How do people adopt animals out of foster homes? Do they come back to the shelter, or does the adopting family go to the foster home? Is there a certain appointment process to get the foster back to the shelter? How does that work?
Amy Yeager: So, the foster parent, wherever they feel comfortable doing a meet-and-greet, I recommend that the meet-and-greet is completed at the shelter, but some people feel comfortable with adopters come into their home. Then what’s the meet-and-greet takes place, and the family chooses to move forward with adoption, that can either be done remotely by me, or they can come to the shelter and do it in person.
Audience Question: First of all, do you allow highly adoptable dogs to go to foster? And if so, how do you get your adoption team to let them go on to foster?
Amy Yeager: That’s a good question. We, a lot of our fosters want highly adoptable dogs, like the poodles and stuff like that. But they really don’t get much of a chance unless there’s a behavior issue, because those dogs here last all but five minutes. So, our foster families don’t really get an opportunity to even foster the dogs that are really desirable. But every now and then, we will put one into foster care, and they get pretty much bombarded with e-mails. So that’s what we try to prevent. We don’t want them overwhelmed with the amount of e-mails.
Audience Question: How do you manage the medical needs of the animals when they’re in foster care? Who’s fielding the sick animals with animals in foster, especially when maybe that foster family is 40, 50 miles away from the shelter?
Amy Yeager: So that would be me. I field pretty much every foster request, every medical need, and tell them what to do. Most of our foster parents, 90% of them will come here for any medical need. Some of them, if they live far away, they may take them to their own vet. And depending on if it was like, they wanted to take them to their vet, because they just wanted to get a checkup done. We probably wouldn’t cover the cost of that. But if it was an actual emergency and they couldn’t get a hold of me or the on-call person, we would try to cover that cost, if they were, if they had to take our foster animal to their personal vet.
Audience Question: How do you handle fosters wanting to bring back the animals that they fostered?
Amy Yeager: They just can bring them back anytime, so we don’t have a time frame on fostering. Sometimes you might take a dog home and it may not be a good fit for your other dog at home or your child, so we’re totally understanding of that. You could take a dog home and you can bring it back five hours if you want. There’s really no timeframe.
Host: Got it. I did want to share a couple of interesting comments from Chelsea. Chelsea suggested that developing partnerships with veterinarians across the foster region can be very important, especially when fosters are distributed through the areas. So, that’s, I thought that was a really good idea. I know that we’ve seen it over and over again. Developing those kinds of relationships with veterinarians across your region can be invaluable for any number of reasons, including when you’re conducting those animal welfare investigations. So, thank you, Chelsea.
Amy Yeager: Yes, thank you very much, and I have something that we can definitely look into. It will be very beneficial, especially for someone that lives an hour away that’s happened to come here because their dog has kennel cough and, you know, every pretty much every dog that goes out to foster has kennel cough and they have to come back. Kittens too, they get diarrhea, and they have to come right back, and it gets frustrating sometimes.
Audience Question: Do you require dog-to-dog introductions first? And I’m assuming that’s if the foster parent has another animal in the home.
Amy Yeager: We actually don’t require it, we actually don’t allow it anymore, we used to but so if you’re bringing your dog into the shelter, it’s a very stressful environment, especially for your dog. So, we had a lot of negative dog-on-dog meets. So, we kind of stop that because you bring in your dog in here and a bunch of barking dogs. It’s stressful. Your dog’s kind of going to act up a little bit, possibly. And then, it’s not going to go well. So, what we do is we hand out a flyer on how to do a slow dog intro. So, I recommend this, even if the dog is super dog friendly. We still recommend that you do a slow intro, which is like meeting on neutral ground, going to like a park for the meet-and-greet, don’t bring the foster dog home to where your dogs are going to be territorial. And don’t do it here because the situation is stressful for both dogs.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Building and Maintaining a Fostering Program.