Since you’ve decided to become a foster parent, are you wondering exactly what the process entails? Most agencies, whether state or privately run, have a procedure that involves a number of steps that potential foster parents must go through before receiving a license and having a child placed with them. The process helps the agency determine your fitness to be a foster parent and it gives you an opportunity to make an informed decision on whether foster parenting is indeed something you want to commit to. Additionally, the process allows an agency to make an appropriate match between foster family and foster child.
Here is what you need to know about becoming a foster parent:
Contact Your Local Agency
Do research online to find out where your local division of Children and Family Services, the state organization which generally handles foster parent licensing, is located or where a private foster parent agency is located. Once you have decided where you want to apply, simply call the agency or fill out the required information on their website to get the process in motion.
Complete Any Pre-qualification Paperwork
While paperwork may differ slightly between agencies and locations, generally the necessary paperwork to become a foster parent is similar. First you will need to complete the recruitment questionnaire. Then you will need to have criminal records checks for all household members age 18 and over and Department of Motor Vehicle checks for all household members, age 16 and over. Many agencies will also require authorizations that have to be signed to obtain information and disclosure statements for everyone in the household age 14 and over. The social worker assigned to your case should be able to help you with any needed paperwork.
All agencies hold orientations where you will meet with other interested families and learn more about what it means to be a foster parent. With certain agencies, a staff person will come to your home and meet with you individually to answer your questions and provide information. At some point during the orientation you will be given an application package. At the orientation you will receive information on the home study process. You may also be asked to schedule a family consultation in the home with all members of the household present. Experts recommend discussing the decision to be a foster parent with everyone in the household since everyone in your home will be affected by your decision to become a foster parent. This meeting can be scheduled at your convenience but usually must be completed prior to pre-service training.
You will be required to complete intensive pre-service training. If you are married, your spouse must attend with you. Training sessions may vary in length and duration from agency to agency.
Staff members from your chosen agency will visit your home to interview everyone residing in your home. Generally multiple meetings are needed with each prospective foster parent. It is during this time that you will need to complete all required paperwork and provide requested documentation. Additionally, a home inspection, which usually takes place during one of the face-to-face meetings, must be completed.
The social worker will review all your documentation, complete your home study report and make a recommendation regarding foster parent licensing. Your entire package will be reviewed and a determination of licensing will be made.
Notification of Status
You will either receive a letter or phone call informing you of your licensing status. If you are approved you will be advised of the number, gender and age range of children you have been approved to serve.
After receiving your certificate you may begin by providing respite care for other foster parents and will become eligible for a child to be placed in your home.