Ask the Expert – Foster Department

Chris, Foster Manager

by Marianne Walthier, volunteer writer

Established in 1987, the Foster Department was designed to place in caring homes those animals unable to stay in the shelter environment due to age or behavioral or medical issues, thereby giving them the opportunity to become more adoptable. The Foster Department has dramatically reduced the number of animals housed in the shelter. Currently Foster is comprised of manager Chris, two full-time coordinators, Sarah and Nicole, and more than 400 foster parent volunteers.

The process for becoming a foster parent volunteer includes completing an online application, attending a Foster Orientation as well as Foster 101, having an interview with Volunteer Services, and undergoing a home inspection. The ideal foster parent is flexible and eager to learn about the variety of foster opportunities available. The hope is that foster parents become interested in taking in more than one type of foster animal over their fostering career. The Foster Department provides ongoing support to foster parents by teaching them to care for a variety of animals and setting clear expectations.

On average, fostering lasts for about four weeks. There are also opportunities for shorter commitments, such as relieving another foster parent over a weekend or fostering for a week or two while an animal recovers from an illness or gains necessary weight; and longer commitments, such as fostering for several weeks to months while puppies and kittens grow old enough to be adopted, animals emerge from significant behavioral issues, or animals recover from major illnesses or injuries. Foster parents may be asked to administer medications, perform physical therapy, train under-socialized animals, bottle feed puppies and kittens every 2-4 hours, and return to DFL for frequent medical appointments.

Both Chris and Sarah have favorite stories that involve their own experiences fostering a puppy. Chris took home a puppy that was not making any progress in the shelter, but developed a loving and playful personality after several weeks in his home. Sarah fostered a one-week-old puppy for nine weeks. She was able to watch him open his eyes, learn to walk and learn how to eat solid food! She loved watching his personality develop, and is now able to directly relate to the stress and rewards of being a foster parent. Nicole’s favorite part of fostering is seeing animals progress through the program as young and fearful or ill to their final checkup or their adoption day. Fostering is indeed a very rewarding experience.

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