Choosing a Foster Care Agency
The process of choosing a foster care agency can feel overwhelming. Your first step should be to contact your county child welfare/foster care agency (they go by different names in different states) to ask for information on how to become a foster parent. You should also ask if your state has a contract with private foster care agencies to place foster children. Some county agencies work in relationship with private agencies to train foster parents and place children. Some county agencies do not allow private agency involvement at all.
The Child Welfare Information Gateway (a service of the US Department of Health and Human Services) maintains the National Foster Care & Adoption Directory, which is a great tool for finding your local contact. The state website for your state’s child welfare agency will have a list of contacts for each county in the state, and this list is usually the most up to date. Adoption Program Managers for each state are listed on the Child Welfare Information Gateway site. You can also find this information at AdoptUSKids.
Once you have gathered information on your county and/or state options for foster care, you can begin asking yourself other questions to help you choose the foster care agency that fits your family (again, provided that your county/state allows that choice). Some of the important questions you will need to consider when choosing an agency include the ages and types of needs of the children the agency typically places, support and training for those specific ages or needs, and the level of support and communication you feel you will need during your placement.
Many agencies, both public and private, offer free informational meetings to answer some of these big questions. It’s also quite helpful to schedule an appointment to talk more personally with the county agency and private foster care agencies you are considering. Ask questions and see which process, and which personnel, will be the best fit for you. Creating a Family offers a comprehensive list of questions to ask in your meetings or interviews in our multi-media guide Choosing An Agency or Attorney.
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