3 years ago I started fostering kittens for the Westchester Humane society and it has been one of the best things I have ever done. I love cats, but I am not allowed to have one since I went to boarding school and now college so I would not be around to take care of it. I compromised with my parents and only take in foster kittens over the summer. While fostering is an amazing experience, I have noticed some ways in which the process can be improved to make it easier for the shelters, the foster parents, and of course the kittens, which is what inspired me to develop this app.
What it does
The main goal of the app is to connect shelters and foster parents and having a central place to store important information. The idea is to have two different uses, one specifically for shelters and one specifically for foster parents. Shelters would have the ability to add information about kittens to a database such as their name or id number, important medications and social history, and of course an adorable image to go along with it. Foster parents would then be able to view available kittens and submit requests based on when they are available, their experience level, and the resources they have. I also think it would be nice to have a blog/forum feature where foster parents can communicate and leave helpful advice for each other (as well as sharing adorable content of course). When I first started fostering I ran into many issues that could have been easily solved, but sense I was new I would panic and call the foster coordinator. If the app was able to feature solutions to common problems such as a kitten not eating or throwing up, it would make the work for the foster coordinator much easier. It would also be helpful to use the app to submit and review foster parent applications, and since each shelter is different I was thinking that there could be a registered database of shelters and you can filter them by location and each shelter can register themselves and include important information as well as their own application form or preferred process. Another important thing about foster kittens is that they generally require medication, and it would be great to have that information stored online to make sure there are no errors in communication regarding the dosage of medicine. One final idea I had (which may be inspired a bit by my own experience) is that when a kitten is adopted, they are removed from the database and the foster parent is notified. Even though you don't get to know where the kitten ends up, it is nice to know that they are adopted and it would be much easier to receive a notification, and that way the front desk worker at the humane society won't think I'm crazy when I call everyday to see if they have been adopted yet :)
How we built it
We used MIT App Inventor because it was the quickest way to get a somewhat functional version of our app running and to get an accurate picture of what the design may look like. If I had unlimited time I would like to use a more code based solution like android studio, but we were looking for a way to quickly portray our idea with the time given.
Challenges we ran into
The main challenge here was that this is such a big idea and it was overwhelming to try and get it done in 48 hours. We did a decent amount of planning and design, but in terms of actual code produced I would have liked to have more. However, I am really excited about this idea so I am planning on continuing the project anyways and I think it will be good to take more time to make the app work as well as possible.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We are proud of the idea in general because we think it could be really beneficial to both shelters and foster parents. Kitten season can be overwhelming with dozens of kittens being moved in and out of shelters each day, and a simple app on a phone would make the process a lot easier for both the shelter staff and the volunteer foster parents.
What we learned
I think the most important thing we learned is that the most efficient answer isn't always the best one, and I am excited to work more on the code of the app to make it more professional and usable.
What's next for Foster Friends
Well I mentioned a lot of features in the "What it does" section that it definitely does not do yet, so that is the next immediate step for Foster Friends. In terms of future testing once the code is worked out, I plan on contacting my foster coordinator Sarah to see if we could beta test it at some point. I was thinking I could first try it by just keeping track of my kittens that I foster and then expand it to more people once it is working a bit better.
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