Probably one of the first things people ask me when they find out I foster is how I got into it. How did I go about getting involved? Is there anything I would change? I figured that since this blog deals with fostering as a main focus (along with, of course, anything and everything to do with the greyhound breed) now would be as good a time as any to talk about how I got involved in foster, and how you too could get involved.
No matter where in the world you live, there are retired racer organizations. In fairness, of course, the majority of rescue organizations are located in Australia and the United States of America, so if you happen to live in one of these two places, you’re in luck. A cursory Google search using the keywords “greyhound rescue [your city here]” also should be sufficient to pull up your local chapters.
Once you find the local chapter, the real fun begins. I encourage thorough research into both the chapter and, if applicable, the national mother organization. It’s important to read the mission statement, know their charity status, figure out what the official position is on racing*, and find out how successful they are with rehoming their hounds. Why is it important to know these things? If you become a foster home for their dogs, you will be expected to represent them when you are out and about, so you should be prepared to talk about what the chapter/org stands for. If you don’t agree with their official positions, you will find this part very difficult to do, so it’s best to simply find a chapter that aligns with your interests and positions from the start.
When you’re sure that you’d be a good fit for your local chapter, reach out to the coordinator responsible for liaising with foster homes. In my chapter, this would be either the adoption coordinator or the president, since we are a small rescue. In larger rescues with more volunteers, there may be a person designated for foster families, so if that is the case, reach out to them. If there isn’t a person listed, and there are no forms to fill out (as is also frequently the case), feel free to send a general inquiry through either their social media (Facebook, etc) or the contact email listed on their website.
This is the part that tends to chase people off, as they aren’t sure what they should say. Breathe! You can do this! I recommend not offering a slew of information right out of the starting gate, as you are looking to connect with the chapter at this point, not sell them a product. Talk a little bit about yourself, how you found out about the chapter, and why you are looking to foster for them. Leave your name and phone number as well, as it’s been my experience that foster coordinators prefer to talk over the phone as opposed to email. Once this is done, sit back and wait – most inquiries are seen to within 72 hours.
When the phone call comes in, that’s when you should be ready to offer information. Have at least two, preferably three, references at the ready, since most foster positions require them (you didn’t think we’d just hand the dogs over, did you?). Be prepared to talk about your breed experience, and if you have none, talk about your previous dog experience, and what you can bring to the table. Talk about yourself, your career, your family, your housing situation, and your daily schedule, and answer any questions that may be asked. In turn, feel free to ask questions. Ask what is provided to foster homes, and what they must provide for themselves, as each chapter is different. Some will provide everything from a crate to a belly band to food (my chapter does this), while others will provide the big stuff like crates, but you are expected to provide food. Ask about your responsibilities as a foster home, and if attendance at adoption events is required. It is best to write down your questions beforehand, and have them at the ready alongside your references so you can make the most of the phone call. A home check will likely be scheduled at this point. This also is sometimes a deal breaker for those folks who hate their privacy invaded, but please understand that we won’t be judging you based on how organized your house is – we look for exposed wires, easily accessed food, and other hazards that track hounds are not savvy to.
If you happen to be among the many good-hearted people who want to help but who do not have dog-related references, then my recommendation is to first get involved as a grunt-work volunteer for your chapter, assisting at adoption events, putting up fliers, coordinating plans for fundraisers, etc. Let them get to know you on a personal basis by spending time helping them out (I assure you, there is always a need for more bodies when it comes to planning fundraisers) and they will come to see your talents. When I was first starting out, I had two references, and I spent time attending the sponsored hound walks to let them get to know me (and vice versa). When it came time for the call for foster families to go out, I had no trouble getting approval. There are no shortcuts – but it wouldn’t be as fun if there were!
Foster work is extremely rewarding, and it isn’t as difficult to break into as perhaps this article implies. I’ve gone into as much detail as I can about how to get started, and in another article I’ll talk about the responsibilities of fostering. Good luck!
* Each organization has an official position on racing. Some are formally against racing with aims to shut the industry down, others approve of the industry but believe in tighter regulation, and others adopt a neutral position. As everyone has their own opinions, I recommend an organization with a neutral position, as this will allow you to express yourself on a personal basis, while also explaining that the rescue you represent does not lean one way or the other.