October 15, 2018

Introduction to Foster Parenting

Foster care is a state-run program that places children who have been harmed or neglected with families who can provide a stable, safe and nurturing home.

foster parent

While the goal of fostering is to return the fostered child to his or her original family, it is not altogether uncommon for the fostered child to become available for adoption.

How can you become a foster parent?

Like potential adoptive parents, potential foster parents are asked to meet several requirements before a child can be placed in the home. There is an application process that includes an assessment of the prospective home and financial and emotional stability of the parents. Potential foster families may also be required to attend orientation classes or training programs to better prepare them for the program.

While foster program requirements vary from state to state, there are several requirements that many states share:

  • Foster parents should be 21 years of age or older;
  • Foster parents should be cleared in a criminal background check;
  • A home study should demonstrate that the foster home is a safe and stable environment for the child;
  • Foster parents should have a steady source of income.

Depending on the state, other requirements may include:

  • The completion of training courses;
  • Certification in first aid;
  • Medical examinations for those currently residing in the home;
  • A statement that corporal punishment will not be implemented as a source of discipline.

Can a single person become a foster parent?

While single persons and married couples can become foster parents, some states refuse to license homes where unmarried adults are cohabitating.

Must you be a homeowner to be a foster parent?

You do not need to own your home to become a foster parent. There should, however, be adequate space for the child. Each state has individual standards that will be required to meet. In general, foster children should have their own bedrooms or share with a member of the same sex.

Who provides support for foster parents?

Foster families are assigned a case worker who is responsible for providing on-going support to the family. This support can include training, respite care or help in the event of a crisis.

What kinds of financial support do foster parents receive?

Foster parents are usually reimbursed by the state or agency on a monthly basis. This stipend is intended to offset the cost of food and clothing. Some states provide vouchers that will aid the family in purchasing school clothes each year. Despite these aids, potential foster parents are encouraged to closely evaluate their income as it is not uncommon for expenses to exceed the allotted monthly stipend. An excellent example of such an expense is child care. 

Note that in most states, foster children are eligible to receive Medicaid to cover care, dental care and counseling services.

Can you choose the age of the child you would like to foster?

While you can request to foster a child of a certain age, there may be a greater demand for foster parents in another age group. Currently, there is high demand for foster families for children ages 11 to 16. There is also a need for foster parents for teen mothers.

How long will a foster child remain in your home?

Foster children can be expected to stay in a home for as long as it takes to permanently return the child to their original home, place the child with relatives, or place the child with an adoptive family.

What is the first step in becoming a foster parent?

Before applying to become a foster parent, you are encouraged to seek out as much information as possible. In doing so, you might consider:

  • Talking to other foster parents;
  • Contacting you local social services office to request information about training sessions;
  • Seek out a local association for foster parents.

For more information about foster parenting on state by state basis, please visit: http://www.nfpainc.org/content/?page=copy_FOSTERPARENTINFORMATION&nmenu=156

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