If you want to become a foster parent, it’s necessary to understand your state requirements. While each state has different requirements, some of the requirements will be similar. Let’s look at how to become a foster parent.
Basic Requirements for Fostering Children
Before you start going through any of the steps to become a foster parent, make sure you meet the basic requirements. Every state is a bit different, but commonly, you need to meet these qualifications:
- Must be at least 25 years of age (some states the age requirement is just 21 years of age)
- Must have a history of stable employment
- Must have reliable transportation
- Must have a phone number
- Must be single, legally separated, or married for at least one year
- Must be able to provide food, shelter, clothing, love, and support.
If you meet these basic requirements, you can move on to the steps below to become a foster parent.
Steps to Becoming a Foster Parent
1. Learn about Fostering children
Before you start the process of how to become a foster parent, you need to learn about fostering children. It might seem like a good idea, but it’s not for everybody. The main duty of a foster parent is to care for children temporarily.
You will be tasked with providing a safe environment for children until they are reunified with their birth family. Usually, you won’t care for a child for more than a year, but sometimes you might. You may develop supportive relationships with the birth parents and support the child after returning home.
Fostering children isn’t something you do for yourself. It’s also not a way to make money. If you want to foster children, you want to make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. It can be a very challenging experience. Fostering children isn’t for everybody.
As you learn about fostering children, you will also want to research the different foster care agencies. There are several in each state, and they are all a bit different. Compare a few before choosing the right agency for your needs.
2. Meet the Foster Parent Requirements
You will need to meet the necessary foster parent requirements. These include qualifications to meet the emotional, physical, and developmental needs of the children you foster. With the right foster care agency, you will figure out if this is something you can do. Some of the common requirements include:
- Provide around-the-clock care and supervision
- Be able to support yourself without using the child’s stipend for yourself
- Be very patient, understanding, and flexible
- Provide a home free of fire and safety hazards
- Have a good sense of humor
- Be able to work as a part of a team
- Pass a criminal and protective service background check
It’s possible to become a foster parent in a single or dual-parent family.
3. Get Licensed/Certified
No matter the state you want to foster children in, you must become licensed or certified. However, the process to gain the right license or certification may vary from one state to another. The common steps from each state include:
- Go through an initial meeting
- Explore your capabilities and your interest
- Complete a family assessment
- Provide references
- Pass the necessary background checks
- Pass the home safety check
- Complete orientation and pre-service training
These steps are likely necessary to get the license/certification to become a foster parent.
4. Complete Home Safety Check
One of the most important parts of becoming a foster parent is providing a safe home. If you want to foster children, you will need to go through all the steps, including a home safety check.
During this check, the agency will look at your home to ensure it’s safe for children. They may look for specific risks and complete a specific checklist as they assess the safety of your home.
Not passing the safety check doesn’t mean you can’t be a foster parent. Instead, it means you may need to perform repairs or make some changes to ensure your home passes the inspection. The home safety check will also include an inspection from a building inspector or a fire marshal. If you have pets, you will also need to provide pet vaccination records.
5. Go through Pre-Service Training and Orientation
In most states, you will need to complete 10 to 30 hours of pre-service training and orientation. This is necessary before you can become a licensed foster parent. Some states will require more than 30 hours. You might need to complete first aid and CPR training, as well.
The orientation portion will likely include information about working with private or state agencies. You will also gain information about how to care for children with special needs during the orientation.
If you want to start fostering children, you’ll want to follow these steps. But, first, make sure you look into the state requirements and the agency’s requirements you choose to work with.
Frequently Asked Questions About Fostering Children
How long will children stay in foster care?
Circumstances often vary, but it’s common for a child to remain in foster care for a few days or a few weeks. However, some children will stay in foster care for six months or even two years or longer.
Is it necessary to be a married couple to become foster parents?
No. Single persons and unmarried couples may also be approved as foster parents by some agencies. However, if two adults present themselves as a couple, they need to go through the approval process.
Do I receive any support as a foster parent?
Yes, depending on the agency you work with, you will likely gain support from your case manager throughout the process. This includes weekly contact. You will also have emergency on-call support with most agencies.
Along with the support from the agency, you will also receive a daily stipend for the children in your care. This helps to cover food, clothing, and basic needs for the child. In addition, each child will also come with state medical insurance in most states.
How long will it take to become licensed/certified as a foster parent?
The typical process will take two or three months. It can depend on the home safety check, the agency you work with, and your specific state.
Can I adopt a child I foster?
Possibly. Each situation is different, and it will depend on the child’s home life situation. Of course, reunification with the birth family is always the goal. However, in some situations, adopting a child you foster is possible.
Do I need to own my home to become a foster parent?
No. You will need to meet the space requirements, however. It’s also necessary to have permission from your landlord if you’re renting.
Where will my foster children come from?
Foster children will be placed by child protective agencies across the state. They may come directly from another foster home or the birth family’s home. It’s also possible they may come from a residential facility.
Will each child/foster child need a separate bedroom?
No. Most states allow children of the same sex to share a bedroom, as long as it’s large enough. It will need to provide space for the foster child’s personal belongings and some privacy. However, children cannot share the same bed.
Is there a limit to the number of foster children I can take on at one time?
Yes, the limit will be set by the licensing requirements and the space of your home. You will need to have the proper space for the number of children you foster.
What is the age of children you might foster?
Children can range anywhere from birth to 21 years of age. There isn’t one age that is more common than another, either. Some states won’t put children 18 or older into foster care, however. In some cases, you might be asked to foster siblings.
Is Becoming a Foster Parent Right For You?
Becoming a foster parent is a big deal. If this is something you want to pursue, make sure you do the necessary research first. While most children will become reunited with their families, there are times when this doesn’t happen.
Fostering children is a huge deal and very important. However, while the system needs more good people to foster children, it’s not for everybody.