Foster families are described as having passion for life, generosity and compassion. Foster families are willing to open their heart and homes to meet the needs of a child during one of the scariest times in the child's life. While families must make personal sacrifices, the ultimate reward is making a significant impact on a child's life, and knowing that you and your family helped turn a child's life around.
Specific requirements for becoming a foster family vary among agencies. In general, foster parents can be single, married, divorced or widowed. They may have children of their own, or never have been parents. Foster families must be financially stable and able to meet their family expenses. Individuals must be physically and mentally capable of providing the necessary care for the children placed in their homes, and be able to demonstrate the capacity to love and nurture a child born to someone else. All members of the family residing in the home over the age of 14 must have a clean background check, and the main parent must have a valid driver's license.
While all agencies operate differently, there are similar steps for becoming a foster parent. Potential families can expect the following:
Home Study: This required document is meant as a way to describe the family. The home study is completed over a series of several home visits. Agency workers will document information on your family make up, social history, education, employment, finances, health status and overall home environment. Background checks are also collected for this document. Agency workers will also ensure your home is "safe" for a foster/adoptive child. They will look for things in your home such as fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, first aid supplies, screens on windows, and a fire escape plan, just to name a few. The home study is provided to the Department of Social Services that holds custody of the child during the "matching" process prior to making a placement in your home to ensure a "good match" between your family and a potential foster child.
Training: Each agency is required to provide initial trainings to their families. At minimum, agencies are required to provide 24 hours of initial training and an additional 24 hours of on-going training annually.
Final Approval: When your family successfully completes the training and home study process, you will become an approved licensed family with the agency. A child can then be placed in your care.