Best Practices: Foster Homes (Part 3)

Today’s topic was provided by Linda Isbell of Northern Chesapeake Sheltie Rescue. It covers the following topics. We look forward to your feedback on these topics in the comments section.

1.       Get-togethers
2.       Coupons for food and toys
3.       Free toys, beds, harnesses, etc.
4.       Online forums
c.       Terminating Fosters

Linda’s Take:

Get Togethers: NCSR is a small group; we try to maintain a “family” atmosphere among our volunteers, and our adopters, as much as possible. The core group of volunteers handles most of the events.  We have a secondary group of volunteers that helps from time to time.  We have social get-togethers and an annual Christmas party; these serve as a social bond, allow us some time to get to know each other outside of the “volunteer” environment, and our holiday party is my thank you to these people for giving so much of themselves through the year.

Every fall we hold a Reunion Cookout at a local park.  We provide hot dogs and burgers; each guest brings a gift to share.  We have contests for our guests and their shelties.  The favorite is the costume contest! We also have demos like agility and rally, raffles, prizes, and sell NCSR merchandise.  We also take photos of the dogs with an autumn backdrop that can be purchased by the adopter/owner.  This event is very popular and serves as a bonding event and our major fundraiser for the year.

Coupons for food and toys: As part of Purina Rally to Rescue, we are provided with a pallet of dog food twice a year free.  We distribute this food to our foster homes and adopters. We look for online coupons for dog food and toys; we also talk to the dog food vendors and Pet Smart and Petco to try to get coupons for food for our adopters.

Free toys, beds and harnesses:  We have approached the large box pet supply stores for donations of toy and supplies for our events and we are sometimes successful.  Kuranda beds runs a Donate-a Bed program with Petfinder where groups can apply for donations of their beds.

Online forums:  Sheltie Rescue is fortunate to have a supportive parent group, the American Shetland Sheepdog Association.  The national rescue coordinator of ASSA is a moderator on the national Sheltie Rescue email list. This list is comprised of sheltie rescue groups nationwide.  It is a great support forum; we share issues and suggestions and have a group of like minded rescue people to bounce ideas and problems off of.  I am also a moderator of this group; we have been active online for over 10 years.  Many individual groups also have their own online forums for group volunteers, used mostly for operational purposes.  These groups can be set up through Yahoogroups or a similar provider.

Terminating fosters:  Sometimes things happen within the volunteer base that necessitates a volunteer/foster leave the group.  Most times it is a foster volunteer; they find that fostering is not for them.  NCSR has not had to terminate a foster, but we have noticed when there seems to be distress with the foster home over giving up a dog, or burnout.  At these times I leave the availability of fostering up to them; they know how to reach me if they are interested in fostering again.  It’s so important to stay attuned to the foster homes and their families. Foster homes would be terminated if there was a violation of the foster contract for any reason.  Each foster home signs this contract when they take in their first foster dog; I go over each part and they receive a copy of the contract.  Sometimes foster families quit because they adopt their foster dog and have reached their personal dog limit, but I never consider that a failure.  The sheltie has a new, excellent home, and we are happy for everyone involved.

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