Kittens! Kittens! Everywhere!
While those words bring to mind images of playful little puffs of cuteness, the sad reality is that many of the kittens surrendered at open-intake shelters across the United States are euthanized every year.
Some shelters don’t have the staff to care for orphaned kittens, while other shelters may not even be aware of the resources available to them to implement a life-saving kitten foster program.
Kristi Brooks, operations manager for the Cat Adoption Team, has developed a very successful prototype of a comprehensive kitten foster program called, “Fostering 4 Rock Stars.” The program has the potential to double the number of kittens an organization can save.
Mentorship for foster parents
“Fostering 4 Rock Stars” is a foster mentorship program that guides the kitten fostering experience from intake to adoption. Kristi says that each foster parent benefits from the individual support of a Foster Mentor, and that helps to take pressure of shelter staff or a lone Foster Coordinator.
She says that the concept of kitten fostering is fundamental. “We call it our ‘Shelter Without Walls’ because we’ll often have more cats and kittens in our foster care program than we will at our on-site shelter. That’s a chance for us to basically double our capacity, and if they get pre-adopted, they’re not taking up a cage here (at the shelter).”
The model is based on 10 years of trial and error by a team of volunteers that included Kristi and the Cat Adoption Team in Sherwood, Oregon. Now that it’s been proven, Kristi is offering “Fostering 4 Rock Stars” on a national level.
“We’re looking to save more lives through kitten fostering,” says Kristi.
Connecting with the community: a shelter without walls
The “Shelter Without Walls” phrase appears to help people in the community connect with the kitten foster program concept. “When you adopt a kitten out of our foster program, you’re saving two lives because that kitten will never take up a cage at our shelter. We get to fill that cage with a kitten who might otherwise have been euthanized,” Kristi says. “You’re just making that much more of a difference in your community.”
Thanks to a PetSmart Charities grant, Kristi travels to selected communities and spends three days providing an intense “hands on” training workshop with staff and volunteers. Kristi coaches them on “everything they could ever need to know about implementing a successful kitten foster program for their shelter or rescue.” The comprehensive training includes manuals, forms and standard operating procedures. She also provides continued phone support throughout the year.
Kristi says that depending on the size of the shelter or rescue, “Fostering 4 Rock Stars” has the potential to double the number of kittens an organization can save.
Now that’s rock star potential.
Want to know if your community is eligible for the “Fostering 4 Rock Stars” program?
Kristi says they look “for shelters or rescue organizations that are in a community of 50% or higher kitten euthanasia rate.” The CatAdoptionTeam.org website also has additional information about criteria and the application process.
“Fostering 4 Rock Stars” does not in itself include grant funds, so you will need to be willing to budget or raise donations to support the program. You will also need to partner with a local veterinarian who would oversee Foster Mentors, so the sets of kitten booster vaccinations could be administered in the foster parent’s home.
However, even if your shelter or rescue group does not meet all of the criteria at this point, contact Kristi to discuss some steps you can take now to become a strong future candidate.
“I did have a group that I was in contact with out of Texas, a small group,” Kristi says, “I told them that it would be best for them to get their (rescue) going, and then in January we would talk about how to start putting together the barebones for the ‘Fostering 4 Rock Stars’ program. Then we could maybe move forward for them applying the following year, but at least they’d have a head start in the right direction.”