Becoming a foster parent
Opening your home to children who need a temporary place to stay is an amazing act. Many children are in the foster system due to abandonment, neglect or other issues and are in need of a temporary, safe and supportive environment in which to live. That's where foster parents come in.
To become a foster parent, the process involves assessment, training, and licensing. Of course, since requirements vary from state to state, the length of time it takes to complete the process also varies, but in New Hampshire, for example, the process takes 60 days from beginning to end to becoming a licensed foster parent. The first step is to figure out if you are right for foster parenting.
A good fit
Deciding to become a foster parent is an important and extraordinary decision. It's more than providing a place to stay and food to eat. It's about giving a child a sanctuary during an unstable time in their life.
According to Linda Spears of the Child Welfare League of America, children in foster care have likely experienced a tremendous amount of trauma, so foster parenting can be both challenging and rewarding. "Families need the knowledge and skills to help children heal and thrive. They need to be patient, caring people who are willing to be a consistent part of a child's life for as long as care is needed," says Spears.
If you are thinking about becoming a foster parent, you need to be able to:
- Care for a child from a difficult background
- Be confident in your parenting skills
- Clearly define limits and discipline with understanding
- Tolerate the ups and downs of foster parenting
- Give a child a sense of belonging during the temporary stay
- Accept guidance from trained social workers
- Present a positive attitude toward a foster child's parents
- Love a child knowing they may not easily love you back, and then let them go
With these basic skills on hand, the next step is to verify if you can meet the common requirements.
Specific requirements vary from state to state, but according to the National Foster Parent Association, the general list of requirements includes:
- Completed application for a family home license
- Background and criminal history checks and finger printing for each adult household member
- Family stability
- Home inspection
- Personal interview
- Character references
- Applicant must be a minimum of 21 years old
- Pre-service training prior to license/certification
For details for your specific state, check with your local foster care specialists.
Where to start
To get started on the path to foster parenting, locate your state's foster care specialists, sometimes known as the Division of Family Services, and inquire about the specific requirements for your state. At that time, you'll want to begin all pre-training and education classes also required to open your home to a foster child. Training also varies, but on average, takes about a month.
In addition, financial assistance is available to foster families, but proof that the needs of foster parenting can be met without this assistance is required. With a little research and lots of love and patience, you could be making a positive difference in the life of a child in need in no time.