Foster homes are often like the prize in a cracker jack box.  You are excited at the potential, anticipate the finding, and expect them to be great.  But just like the press on tattoos in the cracker jack, foster homes can often be disappointing when compared to your expectations.

So what’s an organization to do when a foster just isn’t living up to your expectations?  Maybe they aren’t showing up to events, providing the updates, or following your protocols.  Or maybe they are rude to your team or not treating potential adopters in the way that best represents your organization.  Whatever the cause you know that you cannot just ignore the situation but you’ll need to approach it carefully to not make the problem worse.

Here’s our 4 step process for resolving the challenges and problems when you are dealing with foster homes.
1) Inquire
The first step is to approach the situation with an inquiry instead of an accusation. Remember that you do not know their specific circumstances so take a humble approach and recognize that you do not know the situation and reasoning behind why the foster may not be following your rules or handling situations the way you would expect.  There’s a great motivational quote that says “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” Is there something else in their household that is causing them to be stressed?  Are they frustrated with the behavior of the animal or their situation?  If you start with an inquiry and empathetic tone, you can often uncover nuances that are easily solved or remedied.
2) Relate
Based upon the results of your inquiry, the next step is to relate to your foster’s situation.  Maybe they have a sick relative, or a spouse or family member out of work suddenly.  Maybe they lost a family member or pet recently.  How can you relate to the feelings or situation?  When you put yourself in their shoes you are contributing to solving the problem instead of making the situation more difficult.  We all have pride in what we do and they could be frustrated that they are not able to live up to their expectations that you both agreed on.
3) Collaborate
Once you understand their situation and challenges, think about how you can collaborate together on the resolution that is best for the animal.  Ask questions and suggest ideas but try not to dictate the decision.  Use phrases like “How can we do what’s best for the animal here?”  or “Would a new foster home for the animal help make things easier?”  Get your foster to help you solve the problem and maintain that relationship.  Nobody likes to be scolded or told they are doing a poor job and helping them to focus on the animal can often uncover ideas that work for both of you.
4) Arrange
Once you have discussed and collaborated on the options, arrange for the next steps to take place.  Maybe it’s some free obedience classes with your organization to help solve behavior problems.  Or perhaps a temporary relocation of the animal to another foster home will help them to get on top of things and help YOU to maintain a positive relationship with your organization.  Whatever the next steps you agree on, take the lead to arrange for the next steps and discuss, agree and communicate with your foster so it is clear what will happen next.
In our experience, most foster volunteers have the best intentions and best interests of the animal at heart.  Life throws things at all of us so collaborating together, and approaching the situation with humility will help you to not only maintain the relationship but also to focus on what is best for the animal.