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Fostering vs. Adoption: Which is right for me?

If you’ve been contemplating whether or not you’re actually ready to adopt a pet, you should consider fostering. It can have huge rewards for both you and the animal, plus it helps the community in so many ways!

What is fostering?

The main purpose of fostering is to provide an animal with a safe and healthy environment. Someplace where it can acclimate to training and socialize with children and other pets. Some animals may have behavior issues or health problems. Getting an animal healthy and trained can make the difference between a pet getting adopted into a forever home or being left in foster care.

Fostering an animal keeps it out of a shelter facility and off the streets. A foster home provides food, shelter, security, love, and training to prepare a cat or dog to become a happy, healthy family member for a new family. Choosing to foster can also help you decide if you and your family are actually ready for the financial expenses, time, and care of adding a new pet to your family.

When you apply to be a foster, you will go through screenings to make sure that your home is safe and that you are able to provide the right environment for an animal in need.

While being a pet foster is a rewarding experience, there are some things that you should consider. As with adoption, there are costs – both financial and emotional.

What are the costs?

When you choose to become a foster, you will be accepting responsibility for animals. This includes spending time on training, transporting the animal to and from vet appointments, and spending money for food, supplies, and grooming. If you’re fostering for a rescue organization, there may be ways that the organization can help you with certain financial expenses. They may have an agreement for vet services with a particular vet. They may be able to help you by providing food and/or other supplies like bedding, grooming supplies, and toys; but this isn’t always the case. So, before you make that commitment, you should prepare to absorb these costs yourself, if need be.

There’s also an emotional cost. That’s something hardly anyone talks about. For example, what happens when a foster becomes a long-term situation? Or it turns into a “foster fail”; when the foster falls in love and decides to adopt the animal permanently? That’s all part of the foster experience.

What is the foster experience like?

Fostering can be an amazing experience for both the foster and for the pet. Some of the best situations come out of so-called “foster fails” – when the foster decides to permanently adopt a pet. After spending time to get to know the animal, the fosters bond so well with the pet that they decide they want to keep them as part of their family forever. This is one of the happiest outcomes.

“Foster fails” usually come out of long-term foster situations. Animals that have been in the same foster home for 6 months or more become a part of the family, so it can be hard letting go. Adoption seems to be the best and simplest solution.

What if your foster situation ends up being short-term, and you’re attached? That, too, can be difficult, but the pet still benefits. It will be going from one loving, albeit temporary, home to another loving, but permanent, home. Maybe you will consider fostering another animal who needs you. Many fosters started out with just one pet, and then continued to take in other animals who needed them. Some even take in two or three at a time, when they can reasonably afford to do so. While there will be a little bit of heartache watching them go on to their forever homes, it’s an experience that many fosters would gladly go through again and again.

Why foster?

The goal of doing foster care is to take in animals that are either unwanted, abandoned, ill or abused and get them healthy and well-adjusted so they can be placed in new homes that are safe, loving, and happy.

People usually become fosters because they want to be part of that process. Foster care is also a good way to make sure that the pet is a good fit for a particular household, and to be sure that the potential adopter can handle the time/financial costs of having a pet.

Some people go into a foster situation with the “try-before-you-buy” mentality – also known as a “foster-to-adopt” arrangement. These people will take on a pet with the intent to evaluate the animal for potential permanent placement within their family.

Usually, these situations end up being short-term fosters. Maybe the foster finds that they either cannot afford the financial commitments. Or perhaps they don’t have or don’t want to take the time to properly work with the animal to acclimate it to life in their home. Or maybe it’s just not a good fit for their lifestyle.

What if it turns out that fostering is not for me?

Sometimes people wait until they’re completely frustrated with the situation before reaching out for help. They want to be able to say that they gave it all they had, and that’s admirable – but it’s also not fair to the animal. When this happens, there’s usually a pretty short time frame for finding another foster.

As a foster, the time to reach out to the rescue organization is when you first start to have doubts. Call them and tell them how you are feeling; they can help in many ways. For example, they can help by providing information resources for local vet care. Or they can help with training resources and information; training and behavior issues are one of the main reasons people give for re-homing a pet they’ve adopted, or wanting to trade out a pet that they are fostering.

The rescue can also provide emotional support. Deciding whether to continue with fostering or not is difficult and heartbreaking. They will help make arrangements to find another foster home if necessary.

Do you have what it takes?

People who have experience fostering will understand that when one pet goes to a good home, another spot opens up in their house – and their hearts – to help another foster pet. As bittersweet and heartbreaking as that may seem, this is what it’s all about. Helping animals find healthy, loving, happy homes.

If you think you have what it takes to be a foster for an animal that needs help, you can contact your local rescue organizations for more information and to see if you qualify.

If you live in the Jackson, MN area, contact the Jackson County Animal Protection Society for more information.

Written by: Raven Knighte

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