The most important service an animal shelter or rescue provides their local communities is matching animals with the perfect forever home and family. Sometimes adopting families are not readily available. And sometimes the animals need to be reintroduced to loving home and family. Both of these require time – time to find the perfect family and time for the animal to readjust to a safe and comfortable life. Animal shelters and rescues rely on foster homes to provide the animal in need with the care and environment they need.

It is important for the animal shelter or rescue to recruit caring and loving foster parents capable of providing this care. Where do you start? How do you know they will make amazing foster parents? Use this checklist to select the best foster parents.

What to do

  • Require a foster home application.
  • Conduct an in-person or over the phone interview.
  • Visit the home.
  • Require a foster agreement.
  • Conduct a background check.
  • Conduct a foster parent orientation and training.

Questions to ask

  • How long can they commit to fostering?
  • How many hours do they spend away from their home daily?
  • Where do they live?
  • What does their property consist of? Is there a yard? Is there a fence?
  • What do they think proper care consists of?
  • Are the financially able to provide for the animal?
  • How will they handle any potential trips out of town?
  • Who lives in their home? What are their ages?
  • Do they have any additional animals?
  • Do they have knowledge of proper animal care?
  • Do they have experience caring for animals?
  • Are they willing to allow potential adopters visit their home?
  • Why do they want to be a foster parent?
  • How will they handle the animal leaving after growing attached?

These are vital questions to gain a better understanding of the potential environment for the animals. You want to match the animal with a home that best suits their needs.
Recruiting great foster parents increases your long-term retention and gives more opportunity to help animals in need.

Fostering an animal who needs guidance and love is rewarding. You’re literally saving a life when you offer support and structure for an animal in need.  Volunteer foster parents need to have the desire, of course, but should also consider the responsibilities that come with the rewards.

Before you decide to foster, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does your home need any modification?  Think about what needs your chosen animal may have.  Is there enough space?  Do your family members or other pets have any allergies or intolerances that may be an issue?  Is your home safe for a healthy animal of your choice?
  • What kind of foster do you want?  Some people are amazing at behavioral training, some do better with older or physically diminished animals, and some would be best at just offering love and shelter.  Be honest with yourself about what you and your family can handle.
  • Will your insurance cover it?  In the case of large dogs, for instance, an extra insurance rider may be required to protect you from liability, even if the dog hasn’t been a behavioral risk previously.  Double-check your homeowner’s policy.
  • How much financial risk can you assume?  How much you’re responsible for is largely up to the organization through which you’re fostering.  Items like vet bills and ID tags are sometimes covered; additional food or litter may not.  Find out ahead of time what you may have to cover to avoid any surprises.
  • Do you have the time?  Because many fosters have special needs, they can require a bit more love and attention than other pets.  Give some thought to how much time you have for training and other needs before you decide.
  • How good are you at letting go?  Often, the hardest part of being a foster family is having to say goodbye when an adoption goes through.  The beautiful thing about fostering is that it’s temporary.  The worst thing about it is also that it’s temporary.  Make sure you and your family are able to let go when the time comes.

When you’re comfortable with your answers, the application process for fostering is outlined on most organizations’ websites or can be explained by staff volunteer coordinators.  There’s generally a home visit, a check of your references, and an agreement to be signed.

Once approved, it’s just a matter of waiting for an animal that needs your love and care.