Foundations of Foster Programming Collection

This collection of courses and resources cover the fundamentals of running a successful foster program, including data collection and how to run many different types of foster programs.

Organizations with successful foster programming have the following key characteristics:

  • Measurable goals for the foster program are set and relevant data is tracked, including number and types of pets placed in foster homes, active and inactive foster caregivers, length of stay in foster and more.
  • 50% or more of pets are sent to foster.
  • The foster program is adequately staffed.
  • A range of types and durations of fostering is offered.
  • Foster is a possibility for nearly every pet.

Maddie's University has more foster collections, each focused on a specific topic about foster programming. You can see the listings for all the foster collections in the catalog. 

keywords: foster collection

  • Contains 10 Component(s), Includes Credits

    Increase the capacity of your existing foster program

    This course will teach you how to increase the capacity of your existing program through effective communication and marketing, improved logistics and use of volunteers. The course is especially focused on fostering and finding homes for dogs who are harder to place. This course was authored by Kelly Duer, Senior Community Solutions Specialist for Maddie’s Fund®. Upon completion, students' organizations are eligible to apply for a Dog Field Trips grant from Petfinder of up to $1000. (Applicant's organization must be an active Petfinder member with adoptable pets listed on their Petfinder page.)

    This course has been pre-approved for 8.0 Certified Animal Welfare Administrator continuing education credits by The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement.

  • Contains 6 Component(s)

    Learn how to create and run these lifesaving programs

    In this course you will learn how to create and run lifesaving programs that require a shorter commitment than is typically asked of foster caregivers. Field trip, sleepover, and emergency foster programs can all be valuable additions to your existing dog foster program. And if your organization doesn't yet have a dog foster program, short-term opportunities are a great way to build a base of volunteers and foster caregivers. During this course, you'll develop a plan for a pilot field trip, sleepover, or emergency foster program. Upon receipt of a certificate of completion, students' organizations are eligible to apply for a Dog Field Trips grant from Petfinder of up to $1000. (Applicant's organization must be an active Petfinder member with adoptable pets listed on their Petfinder page.)

    This course has been pre-approved for 8.0 Certified Animal Welfare Administrator continuing education credits by The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement.

    version 1: adoption, marketing, overnight

  • Contains 6 Component(s), Includes Credits

    Learn how Finder Foster programs can help you reunite more animals with their families and promote animal well-being

    What is a "Finder Foster" program - how does it work, how long do finders need to hold an animal and what are other important legal aspects of these programs?

    In this course you’ll learn how Finder Foster programs can help you reunite more animals with their families, promote animal well-being and minimize stress by reducing time spent in the shelter, and reserve resources for animals who really do need to come in—all by engaging people who are already helping animals in your community.

    We've asked a legal expert to help us understand these important details.  We'll be using the state of California and its legal requirements for these programs as an example.  You'll want to speak to your own legal counsel to make sure your area (state, county, city or other locality) doesn't have different regulations in place.

    As part of Maddie's® Million Pet Challenge Learniverse program, Bruce Wagman, Lead Counsel for the Shelter Policy and Legal Services (Shelter PALS) program of the San Francisco SPCA, covers the concepts, legal specifics, and requirements of finder-foster programs for animal shelters in the state of California. The country’s first and only legal aid organization dedicated exclusively to the needs of animal shelters, Shelter PALS leverages the expertise of the best legal minds in animal welfare, and channels significant legal aid to animal shelters. Although the specific information in this course is applicable to and derived from California state law, many of the principles will be similar in other states.

    This short, self-paced course has been approved for 1.0 Certified Animal Welfare Administrator (CAWA) continuing education credits by The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement and by National Animal Care and Control Association. 

    This course has been approved for 1 hour of continuing education credit until July 25, 2024 in jurisdictions that recognize RACE approval. Upon completing the course and passing the quiz, upload your certificate to https://CEBroker.com. This is the broker used by the AAVSB to track your continuing education credits.

    Keywords:  Animal Care Laws, Finder Foster, Lifesaving.

    PLEASE CONTACT:  learniverse@sheltermedportal.com if you have any questions or concerns about this course.


    With the Maddie’s®️ Million Pet Challenge, the Five Key Initiatives of the Million Cat Challenge have expanded to include other species at risk in shelters and evolved into the Four Rights.  

    Within the Four Rights, every element works in concert to support one another: animals and people are treated as individuals, empowering shelter staff to make the best decisions for everyone; community safety net services are in place and flourishing; and humane care within the shelter is provided, with appropriate outcomes for the animals that do come in, allowing shelters to deliver the Right Care, in the Right Place, at the Right Time, and to the Right Outcome.

    This course focuses on how Finder Foster programs support the Right Place, Right Care, and Right Outcome components of the Four Rights.

    Learn more about  Maddie's®️ Million Pet Challenge Learniverse.  #ThankstoMaddie


    You can also join the discussion about these concepts over on Maddie's Pet Forum in the Shelter PALS Legal Series Discussion Group

    Discussion Group on Maddie's Pet Forum

    Click to visit the Discussion Group (will open in a new window/tab).

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    We have a dedicated discussion group on Maddie's Pet Forum to discuss the Shelter PALS Legal Series.  Bring your questions, comments, thoughts, and suggestions, or just see what others are thinking about these ideas.

    Discussion Group Button
    Click to visit the Discussion Group (will open in a new window/tab)
    MPF Logo

    Bruce Wagman

    Lead Counsel

    San Francisco SPCA - Shelter Policy and Legal Services (Shelter PALS)

    For almost three decades, Bruce Wagman has been using his legal education and well-honed skills to help animals in all sectors of society, and benefit both society and the animals themselves. He is the only lawyer running an exclusive animal law practice in a major United States firm. He litigates, drafts animal-friendly legislation, oversees rescue operations, and consults clients who care for and protect animals. He has published two major works, the leading casebook for law schools nationwide—Animal Law: Cases and Materials—and a global survey of animal laws, A Worldview of Animal Law, the only global survey of animal law. Bruce also founded Project Chimps, a chimpanzee sanctuary that is home to chimpanzees retired from a research laboratory. Bruce’s clients include numerous animal protection organizations as well as private individuals. He has worked on behalf of many species, including alpacas, bears, birds, cats, chickens, chinchillas, chimpanzees, cows, deer, dogs, dolphins, ducks, elephants, elk, ferrets, geese, goats, gorillas, horses (domestic and wild), lions, mice, monkeys, pigs, rabbits, sharks, turkeys, whales, and wolves. In addition to his role as Lead Counsel of Shelter PALS, Bruce currently serves as Of Counsel at Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila LLP.

    Learn more about the San Francisco SPCA - Shelter Policy and Legal Services (Shelter PALS)

  • Contains 8 Component(s), Includes Credits

    2 great short sessions - "Double Your Big Dog Fosters in 30 Days" and "How to Get Big Dogs Adopted From Foster" with Kelly Duer

    Presenter: Kelly Duer, Foster Care Specialist, Maddie's Fund

    Session 1:  Double Your Big Dog Fosters in 30 Days (27 minutes)

    You’ll learn what the latest market research says about messaging and techniques that can turn potential fosters into applicants, and how short-term foster programs can help you find the fosters and adopters you need.

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    Session 2: How to Get Big Dogs Adopted From Foster (20 minutes)

    You’ll learn the most effective strategies for getting dogs adopted from foster - including marketing them and getting them adopted without needing to return to the shelter. You’ll learn what the latest market research says about messaging and techniques to find the adopters you need, and how organizations with the most robust foster programs are empowering foster caregivers to assist in efforts to market their foster pets online.

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    Learning Objectives:

    1. Learn how to create a community culture of fostering, normalizing the fostering of big dogs
    2. Learn messaging techniques for motivating potential fosters to sign up 
    3. Understand the major reasons people decide not to foster and the strategies that are most effective in overcoming these barriers
    4. Develop a protocol for marketing and adopting pets from foster homes 

    Continuing Education:

    • Earn 1.0 Certified Animal Welfare Administrator continuing education credits from The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement and from the National Animal Care & Control Association.
    • This course has been approved for 1 hour of continuing education credit for each block of presentations until February 14, 2024 in jurisdictions that recognize RACE approval. Pass the quiz with a score of 70% or higher to access your CE certificate and then upload it to https://CEBroker.com. This is the broker that the AAVSB uses to track your continuing education credits.

    Keywords:  foster care, dog foster, management system for big dogs, animal behavior, big dogs, large dogs, dogs, Maximize physical and behavioral health, Animal & Population Management, Strategic & Operational Planning, Policies & Procedures, Foster Care, webcast, MMP

    BD Day 1

    Kelly Duer

    Senior Community Solutions Initiative Specialist - Foster Care Specialist

    Maddie's Fund

    As Senior Community Solutions Initiative Specialist, Kelly's focus is on helping shelters and rescue organizations increase lifesaving through the implementation of robust foster care programs. Her role includes consulting with shelters, creating and providing training for organizations and their foster coordinators, writing and assisting with research on foster care.

    Kelly previously coordinated a foster program that brought orphaned children to the United States in order to find them permanent adoptive homes, worked as the Foster Expansion Coordinator for a national study of foster care, and assisted with the behavioral foster study that was conducted at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter. Her work with foster care and social media has been featured in many national publications, websites and networks, including Animal Sheltering magazine, the Huffington Post, Best Friends magazine, BarkPost, iheartdogs.com, HuffPost Live and Fox News.

  • Contains 8 Component(s), Includes Credits

    2 great short sessions - "Proven Strategies for Minimizing Length of Stay" with Michele Figueroa and Clare Callison AND "Big Dog Marketing - The Easy Way" with Arin Greenwood, Caitlin Quinn and Kasey Spain

    Presenters: 

    Michele Figueroa, Program Director, Pima Animal Care Center
    Clare Callison, Maddie’s® Director of National Pet Supply and Demand, American Pets Alive!
    Arin Greenwood, Editor, Writer, Communications Consultant, Human Animal Support Services
    Caitlinn Quinn, Director of Operations, HeARTs Speak, Inc.
    Kasey Spain, Marketing and Communications Senior Manager, American Pets Alive! and Human Animal Support Services


    Session 1:  Proven Strategies for Minimizing the Length of Stay (24 minutes)

    Learn strategies for minimizing length of stay for medium and large dogs, from in-shelter techniques through adoption marketing.

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    Session 2: Big Dog Marketing - The Easy Way (26 minutes)

    Topics discussed include: how to design and create a pipeline for great marketing materials on dogs in care, ensure that pets’ online profiles are kept up to date and that each dog is marketed robustly.

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    Learning Objectives:

    1. Learn about barriers to adoption and how to avoid them
    2. Learn what an intake-to-placement program is and how it works
    3. Learn the difference between marketing and adoption counseling and how to ensure transparency while keeping them separate.
    4. Learn how to create a protocol to ensure that every dog in their care is robustly marketed, with no one slipping through the cracks.

    Continuing Education:

    • Earn 1.0 Certified Animal Welfare Administrator continuing education credits from The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement and from the National Animal Care & Control Association.
    • This course has been approved for 1 hour of continuing education credit for each block of presentations until February 14, 2024 in jurisdictions that recognize RACE approval. Pass the quiz with a score of 70% or higher to access your CE certificate and then upload it to https://CEBroker.com. This is the broker that the AAVSB uses to track your continuing education credits.

    Keywords:  length of stay, adoption marketing, marketing big dogs, Community support, live outcomes, obstacles to outcomes management system for big dogs, animal behavior, big dogs, large dogs, Maximize physical and behavioral health, Animal & Population Management, Strategic & Operational Planning, Policies & Procedures, webcast

    BD Day 2

    Michele Figueroa

    Program Director

    Pima Animal Care Center

    Director of Internal Operations at Pima Animal Care Center

    Clare Callison

    Maddie’s® Director of National Pet Supply and Demand

    American Pets Alive!

    Clare Callison is the Maddie’s® Director of National Pet Supply and Demand for American Pets Alive! and serves on the Board of Directors for CARE (Companions and Animals for Reform and Equity). She provides guidance and support to help organizations build robust lifesaving programs and improve operations to better serve people and pets. Clare specializes in helping organizations grow their transport relationships and increase their lifesaving through rescue partnerships and open adoption practices. Before joining American Pets Alive!, she was the Director of Operations for San Antonio Pets Alive for 5 years. Because of her heavy involvement, San Antonio has gone from a 28 percent live release rate to a 90 percent live release rate in over three years. Clare enjoys helping others seek lifesaving solutions to common challenges that exist in working in a high-volume, fast-paced animal welfare organization.

    Arin Greenwood

    Editor, Writer, Communications Consultant

    Human Animal Support Services

    Columbia Law School grad turned writer, editor, communications professional, and animal advocate.

    I was The Huffington Post's animal welfare editor. My stories about cats, dogs, and other critters have been published in The Dodo, The Washington Post, Slate, The Today Show's website, the American Bar Association Journal, and many other publications. I now write, edit, and consult for animal nonprofits, and other clients. Please reach out to chat about possible projects we could work on together.

    My novel Your Robot Dog Will Die was published by Soho Teen in 2018. Robot Dog won Creative Loafing's Best of the Bay award for best local author, was one of YALSA’s 2019 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers, and was a Children's Book Council Hot Off the Press pick. Robot Dog has been optioned by Centerboro Productions to turn into an animated series!

    Please feel free to get in touch here on Linkedin, at aringreenwood at gmail.com, on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/aringreenwood), or on Twitter (https://twitter.com/arin_twit).

    Caitlinn Quinn

    Director of Operations

    HeARTs Speak, Inc.

    Caitlin is passionate about working with shelters and rescues to reimagine the way they tell their stories and connect with new audiences. She has served in the animal welfare field since 2008 and early on had the honor of working closely with diverse organizations across the U.S. to maximize resources, redesign policies, & find life-changing marketing solutions. In 2015 she got her MPA with a concentration in nonprofit management and in 2021 she began teaching shelter marketing for the University of Florida Master's in Shelter Medicine program. She currently shares her life with a petite brindle pit bull named Sally.

    Kasey Spain

    Marketing and Communications Senior Manager

    American Pets Alive! and Human Animal Support Services

    Kasey Spain is Maddie’s® Director of Marketing and Communications for American Pets Alive! and the Human Animal Support Services project. With a background as a Creative Director specializing in design and branding, Kasey has worked with brands such as Neiman Marcus, Lincoln Property Company, Chuy’s, Choctaw Casinos, TIGI Haircare and many more.

    Kasey previously served as the Marketing and Communications Manager for the Austin Animal Center, the city’s municipal shelter. She received an Austin Addy Award and an Emmy nomination for her work on a lost pet awareness campaign produced for Austin Animal Center. As part of her contribution to the HASS project, Kasey leads the Marketing and Communications Working Group and Job-Alike peer group, and is passionate about helping HASS partner organization’s marketing staff to transform their services and communities through effective communication.

  • Contains 3 Component(s), Includes Credits

    Learn how to build a successful foster program that can grow with your organization

    With a viable foster program it's possible to begin saving lives and transforming your community to no-kill, even if you don't have a shelter. Learn how to build a successful foster program that can grow with your organization by developing teams of volunteers. You will be able to expand your capacity to save more animals.

    Presenter: Lindholm, Duer






    Maximize In-Shelter Welfare, Animal & Population Management,live outcomes,foster programs, foster care,pet fostering, community outreach, dog foster, dog foster care

  • Contains 4 Component(s), Includes Credits

    Learn to safely handle and treat feral and fractious cats

    This is a practical course covering treatment and handling of feral and fractious cats. Videos demonstrate handling techniques. This course is authored by Monica Tarant, Chief Innovation Officer: Feline Lifesaving at Cincinnati Animal CARE with The Joanie Bernard Foundation.

    keywords: community, cats, medical, treatment, panleuk, URI

  • Contains 3 Component(s), Includes Credits

    Keep cats in their homes and out of your shelter or rescue

    In this course you'll learn how the all-volunteer Cat Behavior Team at Austin Pets Alive! keeps cats in their homes. Through data analysis, you'll be able to focus your cat team's training on counseling that will be most useful for pet retention. And you'll learn how APA! makes sure its long-stay cats are getting the attention they deserve. This course is authored by Monica Tarant, Chief Innovation Officer: Feline Lifesaving at Cincinnati Animal CARE with The Joanie Bernard Foundation.

    This course has been pre-approved for 0.75 Certified Animal Welfare Administrator continuing education credits by The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement.

  • Contains 3 Component(s), Includes Credits

    It's easy to save the lives of cats who test positive for FeLV!

    There is no reason for FeLV+ cats to die in shelters. People want to foster them; people want to adopt them; people want to give us money to help save them. Find out how easy it is to save the lives of these special cats from the experts at Austin Pets Alive!. This course is authored by Monica Tarant, Chief Innovation Officer: Feline Lifesaving at Cincinnati Animal CARE with The Joanie Bernard Foundation American Pets Alive!.

    This course has been pre-approved for 1.50 Certified Animal Welfare Administrator continuing education credits by The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement.

  • Contains 3 Component(s), Includes Credits

    Diagnose and treat ringworm quickly, effectively and cheaply

    Efficient diagnosis and treatment of ringworm reduces length of stay and saves lives. With an effective ringworm program, you can intake ringworm cats, resolve their infections, and move them into adoption within three weeks. This course is authored by Monica Tarant, Chief Innovation Officer: Feline Lifesaving at Cincinnati Animal CARE with The Joanie Bernard Foundation.

    This course has been pre-approved for 1.75 Certified Animal Welfare Administrator continuing education credits by The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement.

Examples of programs that ask community members who find a pet to hold them while an effort is made to locate the pet's family

Examples of programs that give adopters the opportunity to foster the pet for a time period before finalizing the adoption

Examples of programs that connect terminally ill or very senior pets who still have a good quality of life with foster caregivers for end-of-life care

Resources and sample short-term foster programs, including field trips, sleepovers, holiday foster, and emergency foster. Note that emergency foster is not only used in disease outbreaks, hoarding cases and natural distasters; emergency foster initiatives are highly useful (when used sparingly) for recruiting new foster caregivers and can be used in any circumstance, including a forecasted space crisis. In fact, all short-term foster programs provide the opportunity to recruit new foster caregivers with a low-commitment option. Many short-term fosters become longer-term fosters.