How to Become a Foster Parent
Are you ready to make an impact in the life of a child or grow your family through foster care? Learn how to become a foster parent and other tips for foster parents here.
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There is a huge need for foster parents in America. There are currently over 400,000 children in the foster care system. All of those children need a licensed, equipped, and loving foster home. If you feel called to meet that need, you must first become a foster parent.
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How to Become a Foster Parent
When you first decide you want foster children, the process to becoming a foster parent can seem long and overwhelming. There is a logical path to follow to get you there.
Determine why you want to be a foster parent.
This may not seem like an important step, but it really is. You should know before you choose your licensing agency if you want to simply provide respite, foster to adopt, or only foster children for short periods of time. You should also know something about the children you want to foster parent. If you are still in the early stages of deciding if foster care is for you, this post can help and it provides a free printable worksheet to share with your spouse.
You may also want to know about the qualifications for foster parents before you begin the lengthy process of becoming licensed. You can find those qualifications here.
Research foster care licensing agencies in your area.
Sometime parents believe the only agency that can license foster parents is the state Department of Children’s Services. That is not true. There are many reputable third party agencies that provide training, home studies and licensure for foster parents. However, many of those agencies are specialized and only place children who have special needs, or only teens, or only medically fragile foster children. Do some research about the agencies in your area before you apply with one or with your state directly.
Contact the foster care agency you choose to begin the application process.
Once you have determined the agency that will be the best fit for you and your family, reach out to them and begin the application process. The first part of this process is usually pretty simple requiring basic contact information. If you want to get a jump on the process, you can use the checklist contained in this post to begin gathering your documentation.
Complete the required training for foster parents.
Licensed foster parents are required to complete a number of hours of training determined by their state. After the parents becoming licensed, continuing education hours are required on a yearly basis.
Complete the home study process.
The home study process is probably the most time consuming and also the most anxiety producing part of the foster care licensing process. Having your life and home scrutinized can be unsettling for most people, especially if their future hopes for children hinge on the approval. You can learn more about what the home study is and what it entails here.
Wait for approval as a licensed foster parent.
Once the home study is complete, providing all of the background checks are clear and all of your other documentation has arrived, the final approval process should not take very long. It is really determined by how many foster parents are being approved and how many people are doing the final review. I believe both of my home studies were approved in less than two weeks.
Wait for your first foster care placement call.
The wait for your first placement call often feels like the longest wait of all. Newly approved foster parents are usually super excited and even a little bit anxious for their first placement call. Just relax and enjoy this time. The call will come. When it does, remember the boundaries you set when you were completing your application. Sometimes, parents get so excited that they accept placement of a child that has issues beyond what they were willing to accept.