Kelly Duer joins us today and shares how she started in animal welfare. Her focus is on helping shelters and rescues increase live outcomes through the implementation of robust foster care programs. She has worked with various organizations, including Austin Animal Center, Pima Animal Care Center, Best Friends Animal Society in Houston and Maddie’s Fund
Welcome to the Professionals and Animal Rescue podcast, where goal is to introduce you two amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This’ll Podcast is probably sponsored by do bert dot com. Do Bert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Now on with our show. Kelly is a foster program consultant who has worked with very shelters and organizations, including Austin Animal Center, Pema Animal Care Center, Best Friends Animal Society in Houston and Maddie’s Fund. Her focuses on helping shelters and rescues increased live outcomes through the implementation of robust foster care programs. Her focus includes consulting with shelters, creating in providing training for organizations and their foster coordinators and assistant with research on foster care. Kelly’s work has been featured in many national publications, websites and networks, including Animal Sheltering magazine, The Huffington Post, Best Friends Magazine, Burke Post I Hurt Dogs dot com, Huffpost Live and Fox News. Hey, Kelly, Thanks for coming on today. Oh, thank you so much for having me. So give us a little bit about you and your background. I mean, you’re kind of like the Foster queen now, so tell us kind of how you got involved with this. So in the early two thousands, I started coordinating a program. It’s called some Summer Miracles from Kidsave International, and they bring kids from at least at the time, they brought kids from Colombia and Russia to the United States for summer camp for six weeks. But really, they were actually looking for adoptive families for the kids. So it was a foster program for humans. And, um, the program was built by two women who were marking exact executives. And they theorized that if you took some of the eight million Children on in the world who don’t have families and put them in families and had people meet them, that these people would become their advocates and it would become real to them and they would be able to find these adoptive families and it worked like a charm. It was amazing. So I coordinated that program for about three years in D. C. And the third year we decided, Well, you know, we’re gonna foster we’re not looking to adopt, were just helped looking to help. Two kids. You know how that goes. Vic Foster fails Colombian teenagers. And one of the main major reasons we, you know, we’ve decided to adopt, was we? We both have a My husband and I both have, ah, real connection to animals. And they came and both of them wanted to be vets. And they talked the whole time about animals, and they just they were so open and loving, and it was amazing. So we decided to adopt. And, um then fast forward. About five years, my daughter and I were, you know, in the teenager phase were, you know, kind of, you know, just the mom and teenager issues. And I was looking for something that any and I could do together, too. Um, tell poor relationship, but also to help her in her future career. She was planning on going into a man animal. Very related career. So we decided to volunteer at the Fairfax County Animal shelter, and it was the most amazing experience. Ah, we started at the same time approximately as Tony Hammond took over for his director and christen our back took over a step you, director. And so we saw the shelter go from like a 75% live release rate till, like, 90 and started fostering with behavioral dogs so we would take these guys home. It started out as, ah, weekend program, and we would take pictures that once the stress were off, these dogs were just completely different dogs. And we took pictures. And these dogs who had been in the shelter for, like, seven months some of them were adopted that week because they had been in a home and we had that information. And we, um you know, we were able to take those pictures and people kind of felt like they knew them. And so that’s kind of how I got started in in fostering. Once Kristin turned it into a study, Maddie’s fund took notice and contacted her. And when they decided to do, ah, in depth study of foster care with Kristen, they asked me to be the person to help coordinate the study s Oh, that’s how I got into this. Wow, quite the story. So it wasn’t even something that, like you’ve always wanted to do this and this has always been a passionate it really just kind of all of a sudden you found it. It became something that now it’s your It’s like your lifestyle now, really. You know, I’ve always loved animals, and we’ve always had pets and Ruth stuff, but I never was like, you know, I want to go on animal welfare. But once that kind of opened up, it was like, this is exactly what I meant to do. If this is, you know what? I was born to Theo. Yeah, so that’s really cool. So now what have you done with it now? Because, like, I kind of said, you you do a lot with fostering, and you’re really doing some amazing things at a national level. So right now, working on the third Foster study, which is building upon the second and first and so we’re getting ready for that, there’s gonna be a whole bunch of shelters. We’re gonna look at field trip Foster weekend foster and longer term. But the little dog Foster, I’m doing some consulting at shelters who are looking to build and expand their foster programs. And I’ve been doing some apprenticeships with Foster’s and helping to train them, you know, in adult lark fostering and the ends announced. There s so I’ve been doing all kinds of stuff and it’s it’s really a lot of fun. So what, So share with our listeners? You know, if an organization doesn’t really have a foster program like where did they start? Sometimes I think it seems so overwhelming. You gotta find the people and you gotta set up which dogs go, and there’s just a lot that goes into it. So the first thing I would say is email me. My l is duer at c dot maddie’s fund dot org’s and we have a ton of resource is I’ve been compiling. Resource is from shelters all over the US Their program documents, their agreements, their manuals, all kinds of stuff that we can share. And all of these places have allowed us to use them and give them out to use these templates so that you guys don’t have to recreate the wheel. Um, the other thing is definitely come to at least one of the matters apprenticeships. There are at least four of them that have to do it specifically with foster across the U. S. And they are just an amazing place to go. Even if you’re experienced, foster coordinator, you can learn a ton of stuff. And just having the support there of other foster coordinators who were in the same position is invaluable. I mean, I think that, you know, that aspect of the apprenticeships is Justus important as any of the things that we teach you is the stuff that way All teach each other. Yeah. Now, I know you said that you’re working on the third kind of survey or study. So what have you learned or what were the things that stood out to you from the 1st 2? So the 1st 1 it was that, you know, dogs who have, you know, shelter, stress, behave. Behavior issues, dogs who have who are starting to decline in the shelter due to stress. Getting them out and into foster is critical. Um, thes dogs when they leave the shelter, it takes a little while to decompress. And then they Then they become, you know, the dog that they once where I think Foster is, foster could easily save lives. And I think that short term foster is one thing that is really helpful in building your foster program, day outings and weekend. Foster can really help to get people involved, and it helped them to help New Foster’s kind of dip their toe in the water before jumping in. Nobody really wants toe, you know, apply to Foster and you know, you give them a dog in your like you can have this dog for a year and 1/2. No one wants to do that. It’s scary, you know, we get attached, but with short term foster people can kind of dip a toe in and, you know, get used to foster. And a lot of those Foster’s become longer term Foster’s why you mentioned. So the short term is, what a couple of days I mean, you mentioned day outings and weekends on overnights. Is that Is that what you consider short term fostering? Yeah, I would say anything under about two weeks. So dig outings and overnights and then weekends or like Holiday fostering that kind of a thing, OK, and then So it’s a great way for people just to get started and kind of kind of sea and then get used to it, and then the longer term foster kind of what’s the difference? I guess for? For the Foster. I mean, in terms of how did a transition from a short term toe a longer term? It depends on your program. When Kristen started the program in Fairfax, she made all of the volunteers Foster’s automatically, and that was huge. Think that a major reason that we decided to do it because we didn’t have to go through that whole process off becoming a foster. We just Well, you know, said we want to take a dog for the weekend and we did it. And so we did several weekends, and then we had a dog who really couldn’t go back to the shelter. She was so stressed, and, um and so we kind of stretched it a little and then realized that, like, this isn’t so hard to take him for a month or so. It’s really good for the Fosters, too, because, you know, it’s hard for a foster to keep a dog for a really long time. What’s great about short term Foster is getting that information on the dogs and getting photos and stuff. It makes it so much more likely that the dog will get adopted quickly. Um, just about all of our short term. Foster’s got adopted within a week. Because of that information, it’s hard to look at a dog on the adoption floor who you know the shelter knows nothing about, and be like, I want to take that dog home and make it a part of my family. But if you go there and you see this dog in a kennel and you look up and there’s pictures of it laying on somebody’s couch and you know playing with these dogs, then you know it a little. You know, it gives people, uh, um much, you know, it’s it’s much easier for people who want to adopt. Yeah, now one of the common things. I’m sure you hear a lot of people say I can’t do fostering because I would always want to keep them and adopt them. I mean, how do you How do you coach? Somebody threw that. How do you get them to understand that? Really? There, there. An advocate for that animal? Um, well, short term foster, because, um, because you granted I get attached, no matter who I take home. But, uh, you know, taking them home for a shorter period, of time. It’s a little less emotional. Um, the other thing is that one of the things that Kristen did during the behavioral study that it was that made it really easy for us is that she we marketed the dogs in Foster like tons, so I would make take pictures I would write stories at, like twice a week, and she would throw him up on the main page and really work to get the dogs in my home adopted. And these were dogs that some of them needed special homes. They needed to have a home with no other dogs or no kids or things like that, but because we were marketing them so heavily and we were taking the stop signs, such as No other dogs, no kids out of the marketing. We were actually able to find those dogs homes in about three weeks, and that was great for us because we didn’t get as attached. It was also great for the shelter because they were able to utilize me, you know, 18 times over the year of where a year and 1/2. Whereas if they didn’t do that, we could have one dog over a year and 1/2. Yeah, yeah, No, that’s a great point because you’re really admitting the capacity of the shelter and allowing them to free up resources and do more. Right? Exactly. So now when you’re working on the third study, what? I guess what you gonna do differently or what areas you’re gonna focus on differently versus the 1st 2 So the study is is headed up by, uh, Eric up your backer and Lisa duct Dr Lisa Gunter. And they’re going to know we’re gonna have about 100 shelters, and they’re gonna be three groups the foster field trip group, a sleepover group and a longer term adult dog foster group. So we divide up into those three and then we’ll be further divided into shelters that learn online and shelters that go to the apprenticeship and learn there and then shelters that have me come out and do the apprenticeship on site. So we’re gonna look at all kinds of things, Lum, you know, the, you know, aspects of the dogs. And you know what kind of training works best for a shelter, you know, and that No, really, it’s gonna be a very comprehensive Yeah. No, it sounds like it’ll be really cool. And this now has become really your full time your full time job. Now, Yes. Yeah, It’s been great. Yeah, doing doing all sorts of fostering and, um, you know, just trying to help other organizations actually to start their foster program. And as you said, you’re a wealth of resource is and things like that as well. Yes, we You know, if if you are interested in, um, learning more about foster or you need help expanding your program, please do not hesitate to give me on an email. I’m happy to talk with you. Sure. So now tell us a little about kind of what is a typical week look like for you? I mean, being being this super foster consultant at me, what do you What do you do day in and day out? It’s always very different. Um, this week I was home, and, um so I work from home, which is nice, because, you know, the hour Aiken moved my hours around to make them, you know, convenient. If I have to take somebody in the vet or something, I can, you know, work later instead But, um, you know a lot of time travel, and so I’ll be Last week, I was doing the adult Lord Foster apprenticeship at Team I am a kir center. And so I flew out to Tucson on Monday and did the apprenticeship there and then flew back on Saturday. So it really depends if I’m traveling or not. It’s like I’ve either, like, like traveling, you know, high speed, or I’m home, you know, working. Yeah. Now, So what goes into apprenticeship? I mean, can you share maybe what you do with an organization when you show up? Yeah. Um, so with with the ones a pack, usually there’s about 15 people are so and we, you know, talk to them about the shelter, about all of the doctor, about the foster program and all of the ways that they’re that they’re programs work. Like all of the logistics, we have presentations on things like marketing and building, your foster base and short term foster different types of short term foster And how different shelters are creating those programs. Um, ways, too. Manage your time so that your really efficient in your work. Because as I’m sure, everyone knows foster coordinators tend to be working 12 hour days, at least. So you know things like that. We do a lot of group work. There’s one activity that everybody seems to get a lot out of that Kristen does. That’s about the organizational chart and looking at it and looking at how many people are devoted to outcomes. So it’s a little bit of leadership as well. They’re, um, and when we do stuff together, like like we do a group dog walk, Um, just to show everybody how that works and things like that, that’s really cool. So you must have some really good stories from having done this a lot. Any stories you can share about foster programs or any individual Foster’s in general. Um, so one of our first apprenticeships we had, ah, Stephanie Jackson from the Louisville Metric Animal Service has come and we talk about short term foster and she went back and literally like the day that she returned. She started a field trip program, and it was like the most amazingly successful program I’ve ever seen. She, um, we actually ended up putting them in the study, the second study, and because they didn’t have a really there buster program just started. They didn’t have enough Foster’s to do the long term stuff we needed. So we ended up getting data on there field trip program, which turned out to be a massive, like, a really smart thing. Because what we found was that dogs do better on field trips. Basically, they’re they’re calmer there, less anxious. They do less barking and spinning and shaking. So we found all of this great data about how dogs behave on field trips. But the program is just insane. She a couple of months ago had an orientation, and they were like, 250 people there. And the picture is just incredible, like it’s like this huge warehouse, and it’s just like standing room only, um, so they’ve been able to save a ton of dogs with this program. She’s on Lee putting the long term dogs into the program. So these are the dogs were the most risk. I’ve been able to save something like Are they? They’ve had something like over 70 adoptions in the first year that were directly related to field trips. Um, so, yeah, that’s, um, one of my favorite stories. Yeah. No, that’s a great story. So how do you see fostering? Changing? I mean, there’s so much, so many new resource is out there, and but I’m just kind of curious. What? How do you see things changing here in the next couple of years? That’s a really good question. I think that Foster is going to become the norm. It’s gonna become something that shelters focus on right now. It seems like you have your your shelter and then like your foster coordinators, this tiny little piece of it, and like, nobody could even walk into a room and say, Foster without that foster coordinator being in there because, you know Oh, we can’t talk about that. We’ve got to get the foster coordinator. So they’re kind of like Atlas carrying the world on their shoulders, their basically managing another shelter outside the shelter. And, you know, they have, like, no support. What I What I see happening in the future is, as shelters moved toward more of, ah, community center based model, we’re going to rely more and more on Foster, and Foster is going to become the norm for, um, animal care. It’s the most humane solution. It’s very inexpensive. It’s much less less expensive than sheltering animals. You can provide a lot of service is in foster like behavior modification. And, um, it’s so much easier to help for a dog to learn when they’re not stressed out. So I see Foster becoming the norm and becoming, um, at the heart of sheltering as the years go on. Yeah, no, I I agree. I think it is. You think about the role that a shelter plays in the community and getting Maur committee to support and getting more people involved. A successful foster program really just brings all those pieces together. Absolutely. So what’s next for you? It sounds like there’s a lot of things going on with you as well. Um, I will be next, starting in 2019 that we’re doing a lot of traveling for the study of the speaking at a whole bunch of conferences. Um and, um, you know, just continuing on, you know, doing some consulting, and, uh and really trying to get the word out there about foster and really trying to change the culture here in this country toward ah, more foster based model. Yeah, No. And I love that. I love the fact that you’re so passionate about it. It’s something that almost you kind of don’t want to say You fell into, but you discovered. And it’s really become a passion now. And you’re sharing that passion with so many other people. Thank you. Yeah, it is. I I look back and I’m like, I can’t believe that this happened. It’s so amazing. Um so very lucky. Well, Kelly, this has been great. And I appreciate you coming on it. And certainly we’re gonna make sure that people email you right, because it sounds like you got a wealth of resource. Is, um is there anything else you want to share with our listeners before we wrap things up? Um, just one thing. This is not scientifically proven, however, um, when I went and looked at the seven shelters who have, like, the most robust foster programs that I know of and kind of tallied up, I went through one month and tallied how many Facebook posts they did and how many of them mentioned Foster. So either they were about foster. They had a picture of a pet and foster, they were a story from Foster or it said, like this pet is available for foster or adoption. Thes shelters are talking about Foster in 30% of their posts, their shelters who are posting 4 to 5 times a day. So they’re talking about Foster more than once every single day. This is, Ah, huge step in changing the community culture and getting people more familiar with Foster so that they are less afraid to apply. So once, when you’re talking more about Foster and people are, you’re normalizing it for your community. People are much more comfortable applying if they think, well, this is something that our community does. You know, I should probably try it. So I think that that is one piece of advice I always try to give. Yeah, that’s a really good point, because when you when somebody like yourself when you’re able to study this in an aggregate rate and see what’s going on, you can really pick out those best practices. And it’s interesting to note, I mean, they make it a focus of what they’re doing and their brand on things like Facebook and other other sites, so that their community does see it. Yes, absolutely. Well, Kelly, thank you so much for coming on. Today was great to talk to you. Thank you so much for having me really appreciate it. Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast. If you’re not already a member, join the air P A. To take advantage of all the resources we have to offer. And don’t forget to sign up with do bert dot com. It’s free and helps automate the most difficult tasks in animal rescue.