The need for foster parenting has never been greater. If you are interested in becoming a foster parent here is an overview of the program requirements and certifications. Experts advise that you check with your state for specific foster parent regulations since they can differ dramatically from state to state.
Children who are placed in foster homes are subject to standards set by the state. According to most state regulations, a home study must be done in order to evaluate the prospective foster parent’s ability to address the child’s health and safety. Foster homes must also be in compliance with criteria concerning physical condition, safety, resources, character, motivation and willingness to cooperate with the agency or district in providing necessary services and carrying out the permanency plan.
While this varies from state to state, background checks are usually required of any persons over the age of 18. Nationwide, all applicants must complete the forms necessary to determine whether the applicant and any person over the age of 18 who lives in the applicant’s house is the subject of any child abuse maltreatment report on file with the State Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment. In addition, all prospective foster parents and occupants of their home must be evaluated to determine whether they meet basic physical, health and safety requirements. Home inspections are done during a visit to the foster parents’ home; at that time the case worker will collect detailed information about the applicants as well as other household members and potential caregivers for the child.
In general, the prospective foster parents are asked about:
1. Experience raising children.
2. Experience with issues of child abuse or neglect.
3. Their approach to discipline.
4. Their awareness of the importance of measures that provide a safe environment for children.
Information is gathered concerning the awareness of the potential impact of foster parenting on family members and the family’s current life style. The case worker will also assess the ability and interest of the prospective foster parents relative to being a partner in carrying out the permanency plan.
Regulations for licensing must also be determined before placement can be done. Whether these regulations are met determines whether a foster home is “certified” (the term used for non-relative homes) or “approved” (the term used for relatives) according to the same standards.
A home study is completed to determine compliance with regulations. In addition to a complete home study, members of the foster family household or the relative’s family household must be evaluated to determine whether they are in compliance with the following criteria before certification or approval.
This criterion includes:
Each foster parent must be over the age of 21.
Each member of the foster family’s household must be in good physical and mental health and free of communicable diseases. However, keep in mind that physical handicaps or illness of foster parents or members of their household are considered only as they relate to the person’s ability to provide adequate care to foster children or if said issues may affect an individual child’s adjustment to the foster family.
Cases are evaluated on an individual basis with assistance of a medical consultant, as necessary. A written report from a physician regarding the health of a family, including a complete physical examination of the applicant, must be filed with the agency initially and then semi-annually after that. Additional medical reports may requested by either the agency worker or the foster parent.
Employment of a foster parent outside the home must be permitted when there are suitable plans for the care and supervision of the child. This childcare must include after school and during the summer. Such plans must be made part of the foster family record and must receive prior agency approval. An exception is made if one of the two foster parents is working outside the home.
Most states may use the marital status of an applicant as a factor in determining whether or not a certification or approval will be granted. Yet prospective foster parents must keep in mind that most agencies only use this factor as it affects the ability to provide adequate care to foster children. Any changes in marital status must be reported immediately to the authorized agency.
Each applicant requesting certification or approval will be required to provide the agency with the names of three references. The agency will seek signed statements from these individuals attesting to the applicant’s moral character, mature judgment, ability to manage financial resources and capacity for developing a meaningful relationship with children. They may also interview the individuals in person.