How do You Become a Foster Parent?

State agencies are responsible for finding foster care for children who are need of someone to care them of due to an emergency situation, loss of parents or guardians, or removal a caretaker. To help ensure that children will safe, a lengthy but fairly straightforward process is implemented. In spite of the number of steps that it may take in becoming a foster parent, the reward of building a home, temporary or eventually permanent, for children is invaluable.

Information and Training

Once an adult or couple over the age of 18 has decided to work with the foster care system, the process begins by finding out the important details and requirements to move forward. The very first step is to get in touch with the local branch of the state agency responsible for placing children in foster homes. In most cases, a case worker will work with an individual or family to complete training courses, which cover the various challenges that may be faced when fostering, from gaining a child's trust to the possibility of a child leaving care, as well as what the remaining steps of the process to become a foster parent will be.

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Research during this phase is also helpful. There are many things that prospective foster parents can learn before a foster child is placed in their home in order to be prepared. This could be techniques for creating stability and how to behaviorally, emotionally, and physically support children.

Meeting the Requirements

Different state agencies may have varying requirements for future foster parents. Standard information that will have to be provided includes submission of federal criminal background screening, letters of reference, birth certificate or other legal documentation for age and citizenship, and an analysis of income compared to expenses.

The Children's Bureau of the Office of the Administration for Children & Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Services has more detailed information on the requirements to become a foster parent.

Final Steps

In the last stages of the process to becoming a foster parent, social workers with state adoption and foster agencies will conduct a series of interviews and home visits. The purpose of this phase is to determine both the safety of the home for children and to continue to evaluate the prospective foster parents to assess their ability to take children into their homes.

During interviews, case workers will talk to not only the potential foster parents but also to family members, friends, co-workers, and other people who may have insight about the character and experience of the candidates. Case workers will attempt to find information about family background, childcare experience, activities and interests, education, and why applicants want to foster.

Home visits play another role in the evaluation of prospective foster candidates. In addition to evaluating whether or not an applicant is emotionally and mentally prepared to foster, homes must also pass inspection for safety. The process to make this determination, in addition to the interviews, can take up to six months to a year.

Although the process seems daunting at first, case workers are able to help candidates navigate the steps. Once the application process has been completed, the only thing left in becoming a foster parent is to welcome children into a home.