Blog, Ways to Help

National Foster a Pet Month: Foster Highlight

When Young-Williams Animal Center called for emergency fosters, I anticipated there would be an influx of applications. However, I did not anticipate residents from more than 700 homes in Knoxville would ask how and when they could bring a homeless pet into their social isolation bubble.

Quickly adapting our onboarding process to meet the enthusiasm of our neighbors was a challenge, all while ensuring we were taking every precaution to protect new fosters and staff throughout Knox County’s Safer at Home order.

We switched to online foster orientations and began working with our Adoptions coworkers to answer as many questions as we could, as quickly as possible. Most importantly, we started moving our animals out of the shelter and into foster homes.

From March 11 to April 30, we sent 270 animals to foster – 86 more than the same time frame last year.

Karissa Kirsch,
Assistant Placement Coordinator

When I started working for the Young-Williams Foster Department in December 2017, we had close to 185 active foster families. We now have over 1,500 accepted applications for fosters from people from all walks of life, including:

  • College students socializing skittish cats
  • Teenagers bottle-feeding kittens (with parental supervision and support)
  • Retired folks working with days-old orphaned pets
  • Families with young children helping to teach puppy manners
  • You name it, and Knoxville stepped forward!

Instead of becoming reclusive and unengaged under the pressure of a pandemic, members of our community opened their homes to care for animals, and in turn, alleviated the pressure on our limited in-house staff.

The boost of new fosters is an amazing blessing, and our organization will open its doors to those willing to serve, whether they be fosters or volunteers onsite.

Bringing an animal into your home has an incredible impact on the pet’s life and creates an opportunity for the pet to have an advocate.

Please consider fostering animals, whether for our organization or others in your area that work to meet the needs of our country’s homeless pets.


We asked a foster parent who takes in our kittens to explain why she steps forward. Here is what Ellen said:

Volunteer foster, Ellen, with foster kittens

Fostering means providing a temporary, safe place for vulnerable kittens to not only provide food and shelter, but intentional care.

This could include medical, supportive or critical care, helping with any behavioral issues (such as fearful) or just plain and simple loving care.

For me, fostering means setting pets up for a healthy and successful life in their future forever homes.

I am overwhelmed with happiness every time I see my foster kittens with their adopters. Who doesn’t love seeing hard work pay off and a once homeless kitten now loved and safe?

Fostering clears space in my local shelter for the constant flow of animals coming in and helps animals adjust in a home, as opposed to a potentially stressful shelter environment. This takes pressure off shelter staff, who can then dedicate their time to other animals, fundraising and advocacy issues.

Fostering means sharing love to not only orphaned kittens but also to my community.