How to Use Online Orientation for More Foster Parents, Less Staff Burden
Whether you’re preparing for an influx of animals who need foster care or looking for year-round ways to ease the burden on your staff, consider taking your foster orientation online.
The program saves time for staff and volunteers and opens the door to potential foster parents whose schedules don’t allow for in-person training. Pair the online orientation with an on-deck system to truly maximize your fostering power.
Case in Point
In two years, the ASPCA’s Los Angeles Pee Wee Foster Program has been able to train more than 400 foster volunteers to care for nearly 3,000 kittens by providing full training for new foster parents online.
The L.A program has no traditional constraints, no adoption center or on-site clinic and no centralized community of supporters. But its virtual operations helped increase the Baldwin Park Animal Care Center’s kitten live release rate by 88% in the first eight months of operation!
Ready to give it a try?
What You’ll Need
- An online conference system. Possible platforms include:
- Adobe Connect
- About one hour set aside for each orientation plus some time for Q&A.
- A PowerPoint presentation with all the details of your foster program and basics of how to care for kittens. For an example, see the L.A. program's slide deck here.
- Optional: Links to relevant websites and forms.
Why We Love It
Online orientation provides an innovative way to get more fosters by providing more sessions, since staff can conduct them throughout the day without needing to leave the office or set up an event space. For staff working in a shelter, time and resources are saved because the orientations can be conducted from a desk, in-between other daily duties. (Lunchtime, weekends—you can get creative to accommodate various schedules and interest more foster families!)
It also removes some barriers to fostering since those who want to learn more can tune in without having to make a commitment or worrying about getting to the shelter, being stuck in traffic, feeling pressured in person or coping with scheduling conflicts.
In this digital age, targeting young people happens mostly online. The L.A. team found that most individuals attending the online orientations were young and digitally driven—an audience they haven’t been able to tap into before.
And this audience can have a wider reach through social media, meaning more cats can get adopted and more volunteers interested in the program.
Now You Try It
The L.A. team recommends doing the orientation live to keep track of who is online for the duration of the event.
Groups that require they meet new foster parents in person can ask them to stop by the center when picking up kittens and meet with a coordinator for a short time to go over any additional questions.
That’s also a good time to hand out resources, like this comprehensive feline foster care guide, to set your foster families up for success.
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