How to Become a Foster Parent
Foster parenting is a unique and rewarding experience that almost any adult can participate in. If you want the chance to make a lasting impression on a child's life, and grow as a parent and individual, the foster care application process is relatively straightforward. Here's how you become a foster parent.
Starting the Application Process
Contact your local or state agency that oversees the foster care system.The foster care process is usually administered by the state, which means it changes based on where you live. Contact a local foster care agency to learn more about what it takes to adopt a foster child, and what it's like. There should be an orientation which you can attend which provides you with an overview of the process.
Know some of the things that make a good foster parent.There is no single prototype for the "perfect" foster parents. In fact, they come in many shapes and sizes. But there are several things that set outstanding foster parents apart from the pack:
- Family stability and personal maturity
- Being a steady advocate for children
- Being a "team player" with your family and your welfare worker
Know what isnotneeded to become a foster parent.There are several misconceptions about who you need to be or what you need to have in order to become a foster parent.
- You do not need to be married in order to become a foster parent
- You do not need to own or live in your own home
- You do not need to be wealthy
- You do not need to already be a parent or have kids of your own
- You do not need to be young
- You do not need to be a stay-at-home parent
Begin attending your pre-service parent training classes.Before you officially begin the application process, states usually make you complete a pre-service training class designed to teach you about the sorts of challenges foster youth routinely face.These are free through your state agency and are usually scheduled at times that will work for people who work 9 to 5 jobs. These classes usually run 4 - 10 weeks, but states will vary.
Start the application process.After you've completed your pre-service training, you'll be asked to start the (sometimes labor-intensive) process of filling out paperwork and due-diligence. During this phase, you may be asked to provide:
- Income verification through your employer. (Again, you do not need to be wealthy to become a foster parent, and many expenses associated with the raising of foster youth are reimbursable.)
- Criminal record screening at all three levels — local, state, federal
- Letters of reference from your employer as well as from personal acquaintances
- Age verification by birth certificate or other legal means
Finishing the Application Process
Meet your caseworker.After the pre-screening and pre-service training have been completed, you get to meet your caseworker. It's very important to get off on a good footing with your caseworker; be honest, open, and thoughtful about your experiences and your motivation behind becoming a foster parent. After you meet your caseworker and complete an interview with her, you'll be expected to do the following:
- Be responsive to the caseworker's requests in a responsible, timely, and open manner. Honor your caseworker's requests for documents and information.
- Pledge to maintain confidentiality about children in foster care as well as the details surrounding their family.
- Accommodate your caseworker on required home inspections and criminal background checks.
Do a home study.In some states, a home study is required. A home study is a document your caseworker compiles intended to learn more about you, your family history, and your personal relationships. A home study is conducted through a series of questions and interviews, and can last anywhere from three to six months. Generally, a home study includes:
- Family background and any relevant parenting experiences
- Education and employment
- Personal relationships and social life
- Information about your home and the neighborhood you live in
- Your reasons for wanting to foster parent and your readiness to do so
Wait for your caseworker to make his or her recommendations.It can take upwards of a year from when you first contact the foster parent agency until you are given a foster placement.During the waiting period, while your caseworker is making their determination, it's a good idea to stay busy and receptive to any questions your case worker might have.
- During this time, do as much research as you can about the types of issues foster children will have. Some come into the system abused — sexually, mentally and physically — and this presents serious issues for the both the foster youth and parents.
- Contact your state foster parent association and talk to other foster parents for insights and advice. Network with them and find out firsthand what's it's like to be a foster or adoptive parent.
- If a caseworker comes to you with questions which you think may put your eligibility in doubt, never lie. If your caseworker believes you to be deceptive or dishonest, your eligibilitywillsuffer. Most issues that come up can be worked around. The best policy is openness with your caseworker.
Receiving and Parenting a Foster Child
After your application is accepted, start preparing your home and life for the addition of a child.Your local agency will require a number of safety features in your home, such as smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and the like. Don't let a simple oversight derail your plans so late in the game! Follow the safety recommendation for the child's sake and for yours.
Learn as much as possible about the placement process from your placement coordinator.Your placement coordinator should give you information about how other children in your home could be affected by the placement, and what the chances of the child returning to its birth family are. It's important to remember that upwards of 50% of foster youth are reunited with their birth families after being placed in foster care — being a foster parent often doesn't last long!
- If you are feeling weary, unsure, or unwilling to accept the placement, know that you have the right to back out of the placement request before it's finalized.
Examine your family's budget.While there are no requirements to be a foster parent concerning age, race, preference, gender, or religion, you must be able to financially support yourself and any members of your current household. Make sure you understand the financial responsibilities of being a foster parent.
- In most states, foster children are covered with Medicaid cards, which includes medical, dental and counseling services.
- If the child needs daycare, this is a cost you'll probably be responsible for. Again, this differs from state to state; some states include a monthly stipend for childcare.
Buy the items that you would need to care for a child in the first 48 hours they are in your house.A few sets of clothes for the age group you are willing to care for, age appropriate toys, food, hygiene items, etc.
Begin living with your newly-placed foster child.Understand that the initial transition can be quite rough for the foster youth; not everything is going to be rosy right from the get-go. But with a little bit of gumption and a lot of patience and love, your foster youth should ultimately understand that your intentions are pure and that your love is real.
- Form emotional bonds with your foster youth, but don't expect them to stay for very long. Foster care can last a matter of weeks or months, but it rarely drags on forever. More than half of foster youth are eventually reunited with their natural parents.
- If reunification with their birth parents is no longer possible, you may be able to adopt your foster youth. This may only happen after the legal rights of the parents have been officially severed.
- Continue to work with your caseworker to help meet the day to day needs of the foster youth. Stay in touch with your caseworker. They will help you better provide for your foster youth, if only with moral support.
Avoid foster parent burnout.Give yourself some TLC. In order to physically, emotionally, and psychologically provide for your foster youth, you need to provide for yourself. To help avoid burning out, enlist the help of babysitters and respite care.
- In most states, babysitters 18 or older can legally sit foster youth, although your particular state may have a provision against it. Ask your caseworker for more details if you are unsure.
- Respite care is a temporary handing over of the foster youth to another caregiver in order to give the foster parent(s) a break. Again, check with your caseworker for more information about respite care.
QuestionI'm single and 34. Would I be a good candidate for becoming a foster parent?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerMost likely. You don't have to be married, and you are a good age for it, as long as you have a steady income to support the kids, you should be fine.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if I already have pets in my home before I decide to accept a foster child?DAIZHA PHILLIPSCommunity AnswerAs long as they're not dangerous it shouldn't be a problem. There are many foster parents with pets. You should be able to accept a foster child as long as he isn't allergic to your pet.Thanks!
QuestionI'm a type one diabetic. Can I still foster a child with this medical diagnosis?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, since it isn't a life threatening disease, it should be fine. However, you may want to talk to your doctor about it.Thanks!
QuestionDo I need a secondary person to be a foster parent?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo, you don't. You can foster a child as a single parent. However the caseworker will examine if you have a good support network in case something happens to you.Thanks!
QuestionCan I become a foster parent if I get a domestic violence issue expunged off my records?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf you have been convicted of domestic violence, you are not eligible to be a foster parent.Thanks!
QuestionCan foster children be returned to their birth parents?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, they can and often that is the whole point. It all depends on the birth parents' rights -- if they are terminated, mid-way terminated (which means the children can visit), or they have full rights.Thanks!
QuestionWhat is the average monthly stipend for being a foster parent?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThe range can be anywhere between 0-1,400. It depends on where you live and the circumstances of the child. If it is an older child or a child with medical or developmental issues, you will get more.Thanks!
QuestionI don't have a car but did foster a child in the past. How will these facts affect my case?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou must be able to prove that you have a very reliable way to get around with your foster child without a car. Fostering in the past should have a positive impact on your application.Thanks!
QuestionHow old do I have to be to become a foster parent?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIn most states of the USA, the age requirement is 21. However you may be able to adopt at 18 years old. Check the laws in your area.Thanks!
QuestionIf I am 18 and my partner is 22, but I am not married, is there a good chance that I can adopt?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThere is a very strong chance you can adopt but you will have to go through stronger criminal checks.Thanks!
I am 73, in good health, widowed, was a foster parent in Idaho for 7 years. Am I too old to be a foster parent?
If my partner and I want to foster a child due to the fact I have a damaged reproductive system, could it be possible if both of us are on SSI and I have mobility issues?
Do I need an expunged background? I have a couple MIP's from when I was younger. How would I go about getting them expunged?
Are my husband and I eligible if I am not a citizen but he is and we've been married for 27 years and have children?
I really want to help children. I'm a mother of 3 - can I still become a foster parent? How many bedrooms must my house have?
If you’re thinking of becoming a foster parent, take a parent training class to learn about the issues that foster children face and decide if you’re up for the challenge. Find ways to be an advocate for disadvantaged children and determine if you have the parental maturity necessary to nurture a foster child. When you’re ready, you can start an application and discuss details of a placement with a caseworker, who will tell you how to prepare your home and family to foster.
- Talk with your family, friends and spouse about your idea; it will help tremendously if the people around you accept and encourage your idea.
- Make time for yourself - foster parenting is stressful and you won't be effective if you are overtired or overstressed.
- Shop second-hand stores and search for donated items. The purchases you make to care for a child will probably not be repaid by the system, so shop frugally if need be.
- Nurture and love the kids as if they were your own, make them feel like they belong.
- Many states require training even after you receive your license but many of these classes can conveniently be taken online.
- Being a foster parent is not a great way to make money; the reimbursement rate will be lower than what the average person pays for gas in a week or two. You will not get rich by caring for foster kids.
- Taking in foster children is a full-time job. You will be rewarded over the long run, but sometimes it's hard to see the silver lining. Make sure you have a good support system in place for your family.
Video: 5 Things No One Tells You About Becoming a Foster Parent
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