Becoming a Foster Parent

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Foster parents provide a temporary, safe home for children in crisis. They are part of the child's support, treatment, and care programs. They are partners of the child's social worker, attorney, teachers, and doctors. Being a foster parent is not a passive act of opening one's home and providing food, clothing, and shelter. It is a proactive statement of nurturing, advocacy, and love.

Children who need foster families have been removed from their birth family homes for reasons of neglect, abuse, abandonment, or other issues endangering their health and/or safety. Many of these children are filled with fear, anger, confusion, or a sense of powerlessness at having been removed from the only home they have ever known. Many are sibling groups, older children, or young teens. Some have developmental, physical, emotional, or behavioral problems.

They all need safe, supportive environments.

Can you?

These are questions to ask yourself before taking the next step:
  • Can you love and care for a child who has come from a difficult background?
  • Can you help a child develop a sense of belonging in your home even though the stay is temporary?
  • Can you love a child who, because of a fear of rejection, does not easily love you back?
  • Are you secure in yourself and your parenting skills?
  • Can you set clear limits, and be both firm and understanding in your discipline?
  • Do you view bed-wetting, lying, defiance, and minor destructiveness as symptoms of a child in need?
  • Can you tolerate major failures and small successes?
  • Can you accept assistance and guidance from trained social workers?
  • Can you maintain a positive attitude toward a child's parents; even though many of the problems the child is experiencing is a direct result of the parent's actions?
  • Can you love with all of your heart and then let go?
Financial assistance

All states offer financial support. The amount varies from state to state, but in all cases, you must be able to prove that your current family needs can be met without having to use any of this income. Many states also offer clothing, daycare and/or day camp allowances. Check foster care rates and requirements in your state.

Other requirements

Requirements to become a foster parent vary from state to state, but this list from the National Foster Parent Association covers the basics. Be sure to check with the Foster Care Specialist (or equivalent) in your state or province for detailed information.
  • Be at least 21 years old.
  • Have enough room (and beds) in your home for a foster child to sleep and keep his or her belongings.
  • Live in a home that can meet basic fire, safety and sanitary standards.
  • Be physically and emotionally capable of caring for children and have no alcohol or drug abuse problems.
  • Be able to pass a criminal background check and have no substantiated record of abusing or neglecting children.
  • Make enough money to provide for your own family, so you do not need to depend on the foster care reimbursement you receive from the state as income.
Pre-placement training is required to help prepare prospective parents for issues that can arise after a child or sibling group is placed with them. Many children bring not only unique special needs, but a history of life experiences that may affect interactions with foster parents, other children in the family, school mates, and others. Issues related to disability, culture, early abuse, birth family members, etc., should be discussed with your social worker to your satisfaction.

These programs go by various names (MAPP and others) and online training programs are also available. Your foster care specialist can provide more information, and check the Resources Page for more information.

Next: It Isn't For Everyone

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