A Day in the Life of a Home Visit Volunteer

This is the second of a series of articles to acquaint readers with the work and accomplishments of As Good as Gold’s (AGaG) specialty areas. In this issue, we spotlight home visit volunteers.  Joe Lunn of AGaG’s PR/Marketing area interviewed Chris Petersen, Home Visit Coordinator, to learn about this important function.

Chris has been an As Good as Gold member since the rescue was established. She was the Assistant Home Visit Coordinator for several years and has held the coordinator role for the past three years.

Chris is responsible for reviewing all adoption, foster, and dog sitting applications and distributing the home visit assignments to the home visit volunteers.  She monitors each application through the home visit process to ensure the visits are completed in a timely manner.  She then reviews each home visit evaluation that a home visit volunteer submits and either approves or declines the applicant.

Description of a Home Visit

A home visit is an interview performed by an AGaG volunteer with a potential adoptive family, foster family, or dog sitter in order to review the family’s living situation and thoughts on having a dog in their home. The interview is either completed at the applicant’s home or virtually. The home visit volunteer reviews AGaG’s policies and procedures with the applicant and finds out what criteria they have for adopting, fostering, or dog sitting.  The home visit is also an opportunity for the volunteer to educate the family about nutrition, health, training, and other aspects of golden ownership.  We want to be sure the family has a realistic expectation of what to expect with a golden family member.

Volunteer Requirements and Training

Volunteers need to be familiar with Microsoft Word and have the ability to attach a Word document into an email.  Home visit reps must have social skills as they’ll be interacting with applicants.

The volunteer isn’t required to have a dog.  If a home visit rep is conducting a home visit in person and the applicant doesn’t have a dog, then the home visit volunteer is welcome to take his/her dog to the visit provided it’s acceptable to the applicant.

Conducting a home visit itself takes about 1 ½ hours.  After the home visit, the volunteer adds an additional hour to type responses into our home visit evaluation form   Chris rotates assigning home visits among members of the team, so the overall commitment is typically a few hours every couple of months.  It might be slightly more if we’re receiving numerous applications.

Chris emails a home visit volunteer a new applicant’s application and asks if he/she can conduct the home visit.  If able to do so, the rep contacts the applicant and arranges a mutually convenient time and date for the process.

The home visit rep follows our evaluation form and notes the applicant’s answers.  They ask to see the interior and exterior of the applicant’s home as we need to have a clear understanding of the areas where the dog will live.  It’s important that the rep notes any concerns.  After the home visit, the rep adds comments and feedback to the evaluation form and emails the completed form to the appropriate coordinators.

Currently there are approximately 90 members on the home visit team, yet to cover the entire state of Illinois, we can always use more volunteers. Chris provides interested volunteers with the necessary forms and gives them an overview of the process.  A new person will observe home visits either in person or virtually with a trained volunteer. Once feeling ready, the new person runs the visit and is observed by the trainer.    The number of home visits that a new person observes before going solo is entirely up to each volunteer as everyone’s comfort level is different.  Chris tells the new home visit rep that it’s absolutely fine to not know all the answers.  The volunteer simply needs to tell the applicant they will get back to them.

Pandemic Challenges

Prior to Covid, our home visits were all performed in person.  During Covid, we were challenged with moving in person home visits to virtual home visits completed via Zoom or FaceTime. Doing a home visit in person provides one with a much better feel for a home and an applicant.

We stopped accepting adoption applications for a few months during the pandemic.  Once we started accepting applicants again, the applications flooded in.  There were days we received as many as 10 applications, and a home visit rep had two to three home visits to complete. It was hard to keep up, but the team stepped up to the challenge and was truly amazing.

Evaluation and Approval

We ask the home visit reps to provide as much detail as possible in their evaluations.  If there’s any question regarding an applicant providing a safe, caring home with excellent veterinary care then the home visit rep, adoption coordinator, and Chris discuss the concern and decide if the applicant will be approved.

Very few applicants are not accepted for adoption. There are times, however, that we feel the applicant won’t provide a safe home, or we feel they simply aren’t ready for a dog. Then they are declined.