Proven Strategies

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Strategic Plan for Foster Families During and After COVID-19

You did the hard work to get pets into foster homes quickly and nimbly during this emergency pandemic situation. But now what? What can you do to keep foster families engaged? How can you support and increase their success in finding adopters? What evolving phases can we plan for now? How do you safely and systematically bring in only those pets who need to return to your shelter, considering you may fill up in the meantime in response to COVID-19 demands?  

We hope to answer all these questions in this document; provide ideas to find permanent homes for fostered pets; give you a game plan and structure for after the crisis (when some foster animals are brought back to your shelter); and hopefully share ways to keep the amazing foster volunteers you’ve gained through this experience engaged in your day-to-day operational needs. 

Download the Guide

Download iconCommunity Preparedness

Whether your group is a seasoned foster-based organization, or this is the first time you have put so many pets into community foster homes, fostering is temporary in nature. You still need to market these pets and find adopters, but you can now leverage the team of foster volunteers to help you!  

The Best Friends Foster Training Playbook lays out key elements to a successful program and provides SOPs and documents to get you started. 

Download iconCommunicate regularly with staff and foster families

Keeping open communication with foster families is essential to creating lasting, successful relationships. The following resources can help staff and foster families clearly understand the processes and roles they play: 

Download iconKeep them connected

This section includes some creative ideas for keeping foster families connected to your work and with each other, including: 

  • Zoom meetings and virtual office hours
  • #FosterUniversity FaceTime 
  • Email surveys asking how the dog or cat is doing in the home so you can update their profiles in your shelter or rescue database and adoption platform 

Download iconEmpower foster families to help you and the pets

You have trusted your community members to care for your organization’s pets and it is important to continue that trust. When placing a pet who is available for adoption into a foster home, make sure the family knows that the goal is finding an adopter.  

Download iconThe process of adopting from foster care

The actual steps you want foster volunteers to take in finding their foster pet an adopter may vary among organizations. The following are the pivotal interactions usually involved in adoption, adapted for COVID-19 measures, and suggestions for how to make them work: 

  • Adoption counseling or conversation 
  • Virtual meet-and-greet 
  • Next steps 
  • Finalize the paperwork. Consider using software like DocuSign to automate your entire agreement-signing process.  

Here are some additional ideas for an adoption toolkit for foster volunteers: 

Don’t forget to celebrate and share on social media the adoptions and fostering fun being had to show foster volunteers what they make possible! Here are some examples: 

  • Metro Animal Care and Control shares their foster families’ adventures and happily-ever-after stories daily on their Facebook page. Here’s one of many.  
  • Lifeline Animal Project has a #FosterUniversity. 
  • Palm Valley Animal Society is promoting what foster volunteers learn about their foster dogs.   
  • Lincoln County Animal Services shares the successes of their Love Is Blind Project here

Download iconReturning to “normal” after the pandemic

We do not know how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last or what the new “normal” will be, but this section lays out what to do when the crisis is winding down.   

Download iconGathering information from foster volunteers

  • Schedule adoption 
  • Adoption ambassador foster caregiver  
  • Need new foster home or need return 
  • Dealing with non-responsive foster homes  

Download iconCustomer service reminders

People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. This section includes some customer service tips 

Download iconBringing in the foster pets

Every successful managed intake system brings in non-emergency animals when there is a place to put them. It is what some refer to as Shelter Math 101.  

Here is a great webinar on managed intake that walks you through all elements of this type of program.  

Download iconSetting up the appointment system

Create a spreadsheet to organize the information for your waiting list for pets returning to the shelter. The spreadsheet also can be utilized to continue your managed intake program.  

Here is an example of what one might look like.

Download iconFeedback from foster volunteers for improvement and further engagement