Do You Have What it Takes to Become a Foster Parent?
May is National Foster Care Month and raising awareness for foster care couldn’t come soon enough this year. The need for foster parents has reached crisis levels in many communities. Have you thought about being a foster parent? Are you qualified? Do you have what it takes to become a foster parent?
Most communities are desperately looking for new foster parents. When agencies don’t have enough foster parents, the ones who pay the biggest price are the kids.
What Happens to The Kids When There Aren’t Enough Foster Families
When there are not enough foster parents, children who are removed from their families, have few good options.
Picture this very real scenario:
A child is removed from their home—often at night and always scary.
The caseworker looks for a family that has room to accept this child. So very often a foster family is not found. It is not at all uncommon for the child to stay in the caseworker’s office or a nearby community center until a foster home is found.
If no local foster family can take the child, the caseworker has difficult choices to make. Would it be easier to find a family if she breaks up the sibling group? Should she look at neighboring counties, which could make reunification harder? How far afield will she have to look? I’ve heard many stories where the closest available foster family is 2-4 hours away. Should she consider group homes that are usually intended for kids with higher behavioral needs but would keep the children closer?
Moving a child far away from everything she knows is hard for the child. Very hard. The child not only loses her home, her room, her pets, and her parents, she also loses her school, her friends, her church, and easy access to extended family members who could help her cope during this very scary time. A child that lives hours away from home will be spending hours in a car going back and forth for weekly scheduled visitations, meeting, etc. In short, placing a child in a foster home hours away from everything and everyone she knows is devastating. We need more foster parents!
And keep in mind that the child has done nothing wrong. This child is paying the price for the mistakes of her parents.
Do You Have What it Takes to Be a Foster Parent
While each state has their own specific rules, the following are common requirements for being a foster parent. You will have to ask a local foster care agency the specifics for your county.
Do you have room for another child?
The child must have their own bed, but they may be able to share a bedroom with another child.
Can your house pass a safety and fire inspection?
You don’t need to own your own home and apartment living is fine. The foster care agency will conduct both a safety and fire inspection.
Are you mentally and physically healthy?
Are you in physical and mental shape to parent a child who is going through the scariest time of their life? You can be married or single, but if partnered, you need to be in a stable relationship.
Do you have enough income to meet your own family’s financial needs?
Foster families receive a monthly payment to help pay for the expenses of adding another child to the family, but this subsidy is not enough and should not be relied on to support that rest of the family.
Has an adult in the house ever been convicted of a crime?
A criminal record does not automatically exclude you, but you will need to check with the foster care agency.
Are you available for foster parent training?
Are you ready to spend about 20-30 hours to be trained on becoming a foster parent? The training is excellent and most agencies will work with you on fitting the training into your schedule.
Do you care deeply about children?
Do you have the heart to be a temporary soft landing for a child who really really needs a place close to home?
How to Become a Foster Parent
To find out about becoming a foster parent, google “how to become a foster parent in [your state]”. You will find the name of the state agency in your state that handles foster care. Contact them and ask for the name of the public agency in your county, as well as the names of any private agencies that have a contract with the state to place foster children in your county. You can work with either the public or the private agencies. Call and set up a time to talk with both the public and private agencies.
Are you ready to be a foster parent??
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Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/iavi_flickr/ Image credit: Kat Grigg Image credit: Jenna & Tristan Shouldice