Recently I had the opportunity to foster two eight-week-old orange kittens from a cat shelter where I volunteer. It was ‘kitten season’ and the shelter building was filled with tiny meows. During an unscheduled ‘stop in’ on June 6th, several of us were asked if we would foster. When someone asked, “How long is the time commitment for?” we were told 4-6 weeks. I thought, “Huh, I could do that” and so I agreed. Thirty minutes later, I was walking out with two adorable kittens (named Norman and DeeDee), a litter pan, kitten food and a ‘playpen’ to keep them safe.

Now four weeks into the foster, I shared with the shelter director that I may want to keep them. That’s when I found out that this is a “failed foster situation.”

Do you know this expression, “foster failure”? It’s meant as a humorous term, meaning someone who was fostering an animal – one who was being prepared for adoption by a shelter or rescue group – but who fell in love with the animal and decided to adopt the (in this case) kitten herself.

It didn’t make me jump with joy being a failed foster. It made me think of when we call patients ‘non-compliant.’ You know, when a patient doesn’t follow through on a treatment plan or doesn’t take their medications. Healthcare professionals call them non-compliant when, if they dug a little deeper, it might not be non-compliance at all, but more like a lack of finances, a lack of understanding.

And so, yes, I am a failed foster. And proud of it.