June 30, 2017
Audience: Executive Leadership, Foster Caregivers, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers, Veterinary Team
Organization: University of North Carolina
Investigator(s): Steven Rogelberg and Lea Williams
Grant Amount: None
Project Type: Survey
Project Status: Research Complete
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte evaluated the level of interest in developing teams of people (foster teams) who work together to find homes for foster pets. Foster Teams are comprised of people who fulfill different roles, such as team lead, photographer, pet transport, caregivers, etc. The results revealed that there was stronger interest in foster teams among prospective vs. existing foster caregivers. Many respondents felt that foster teams may lead to more community involvement in fostering and more adoptions.
To introduce the foster team concept and evaluate interest of prospective or current foster caregivers, foster caregivers on a break from fostering, and ex-foster caregivers to the foster team concept.
The survey began by asking participants to answer questions about their foster caregiving experiences and general perceptions of foster care. Next, they were asked to read about the foster team concept and answered several questions about the idea. Over 3,300 participants completed the survey.
Over 70% of respondents liked or really liked the idea of foster teams overall and only 10% of respondents had a negative reaction to foster teams.
More than half of respondents (53%) indicated that they would probably or definitely be interested in giving foster teams a try. However, there were also respondents that indicated that they would "prefer to work alone" or "prefer to do everything themselves."
- Many respondents thought that foster teams could lead to good outcomes: more adoptions (57%), more people being involved in fostering (75%), higher foster satisfaction (68%) and healthier and happier pets (56%).
- The idea of being on a foster team was most popular with foster caregivers currently taking a break from fostering. In addition, respondents were more likely to want to be part of a team if they strongly agreed about feeling supported by their current/former organization.
- More than 82% of survey respondents agree or strongly agree that foster teams could work well for some people/organizations. Respondents felt that foster teams can provide support by: helping fosters feel less isolated, spreading the load and reducing burnout. Respondents appreciated that foster caregivers could contribute to a team without keeping an animal in their home. Concerns about the concept were about not understanding how teams would function and concerns about coordination. Respondents felt that the team concept could only work with larger organizations and that it is very dependent on the functionality of the shelter/organization.
- Other (open-ended) responses revealed the following positive themes: foster teams could alleviate some work of staff at shelters; could promote fairness; were a good way to get new volunteers involved; could capitalize on an individual's strengths. Negative responses included concerns about potential poor communication and fear that others will not follow through on their team responsibilities.
The results from the foster teams survey suggest that there is interest in the foster team concept. Many respondents felt that foster teams may lead to more people being involved in fostering and more adoptions. Organizations who are interested in the foster team concept should target foster caregivers who are on a break (or ex-fosters) and also ensure that volunteer support, respect, and appreciation are high in the organization.