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Foster Express Challenge Feature: Kentucky Humane Society

  • 1.  Foster Express Challenge Feature: Kentucky Humane Society

    Posted 06-04-2020 03:01 AM

    Kentucky Humane Society's participation in the Maddie's Fund Foster Express Challenge resulted in a new perspective on short-term fostering and a $5k grant for the 168 total adoptions during the challenge period. Foster Manager, Kayla Saylor tells us more about how their team implemented new short-term fostering into their shelter.


    What hesitations or questions did you or your team have going into the challenge?

    Our team was initially hesitant about the amount of time that we believed would be needed to keep this challenge going. We were reaching the end of a late kitten season and were approaching a peak in foster puppy intakes, so we were nervous that we would not be able to fully commit to the challenge. We were wrong in that aspect! 

    We were also nervous about sending adult cats to foster short-term due to the stress levels of cats during change and transport, but we learned so much during this challenge about the benefits of short-term fostering, even for our adult cats.

    How did you promote short-term fostering options?

    We are fortunate to already have a fairly large foster group within our shelter system; however, most of our foster volunteers have animals in their homes for at least 2-3 weeks or more at a time. So short-term fostering is new. We began promoting short-term fostering over the Thanksgiving holiday via Facebook and email. Social media was our largest source of promoting short-term fosters, and we typically promoted within our own foster Facebook group. We found that we had many foster volunteers respond that hadn't been active in quite some time, as they were interested in this new foster option that had less of a time commitment. 

    After Thanksgiving, we continued to reach out to our foster group for field trips and overnights as well as short-term visits. Our foster families jumped right on board to the idea of these new, short-term foster options. Their responses continued to come in throughout the Christmas and New Years, and even during the time in between and after the holidays.

    How did you decide who was a good candidate to foster cats? Since cats tend to take a longer time to adjust, did they stay out longer than a weekend?

    We did not place many barriers on who could and could not foster cats. We're fortunate in the sense that we already have a fairly experienced cat foster team; however, this is the first time we had ever participated in ANY sort of short-term fostering with adult cats. We found that the social, friendly cats, adjusted very quickly. During the holidays when the cats were only out for three nights, the social affectionate ones were able to go into foster and return for adoption after just a few days without any issue, and we were able to gain a lot of information about their personalities that we shared with adopters. We did have a few foster volunteers ask to keep some of our nervous or shy adults for a few additional days to keep their stress levels down. Those specific cats had a harder time adjusting and spent an average of one week in foster.

    What did you learn from competing in the Foster Express Challenge?

    I learned that our foster program can do so much more for the animals that come through our shelter system. I've always placed these limitations on what I thought our program could and could not handle or participate in. It was a really eye opening experience participating in Maddie’s Fund Foster Express Challenge. I learned that many of the things I thought our team couldn't do were only barriers we had created for ourselves. Our foster volunteers were eager to help short term, they still are, and they're eager to help in so many more ways as well. We even changed our on-boarding system through the challenge to allow more fosters to help us short term, which continues to be a huge success.

    What advice would you give to someone interested in starting or running a short-term fostering program?

    Don't be afraid to try something new. Starting this challenge was scary for our team at first. We had to try new things and operate our program differently, and while there was definitely a learning curve at first, we learned so much through this challenge. We believe the animals that come through our shelter will now benefit so much more because of the short-term foster options we continue to offer.

    Any other comments you'd like to share about the challenge or your award?

    We are so thankful to have been given the opportunity to participate in this the Maddie’s Fund Foster Express Challenge. Going through this experience helped us learn how to make changes very quickly. We removed a lot of barriers for the community to join our foster team and in turn recruited a lot of new foster families. Removing these barriers also played a large part in our recent task of sending all shelter animals to foster as a response to COVID-19 shutting operations down. If we had not changed our on-boarding system during the challenge, we would have had a much more difficult time getting animals to foster during the pandemic. 

    We again are so fortunate to have been able to participate in this challenge and grateful for our award. Everyone at the Kentucky Humane Society LOVES Maddie's Fund and are eager to learn new ways of doing things and to participate in any challenge, study or grant that we have the opportunity to.

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