How to become a Foster Parent
To become a Foster Parent, your ability to care for a foster child is what really matters. You can foster regardless of your marital status, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, or whether you are a homeowner, renting, a parent or a non-parent.
When you do choose to foster, our friendly team will be there to support and guide you every step of the way to become a Foster Parent.
Many of our staff team have fostered, so we know exactly what it’s like. We make the process as open and transparent as possible so you can make a confident decision about fostering.
Stages to become a Foster Parent
You’ll complete six stages in your journey to become a Foster Parent. On average it can take on average 4 months (16 weeks) from your application to being approved as a Foster Parent. The more time you are able to give during your assessment, the quicker the process will be.
Stage 1: Get in contact
Once contacted, we’ll be in touch for an informal chat. So you can learn more about us and we can get to know you. We’ll answer any questions you have and help you decide if fostering is really for you.
Stage 2: Attend an information evening
The next step to fostering is to come along to an information evening. All of our Foster Parents say that the information they received at their information evening was really valuable in helping them make a decision.
The teams that run the sessions are friendly, knowledgeable, and most have fostered themselves, so they really know what they are talking about.
We want you to know all about us, our unique therapeutic fostering approach and, most importantly, help you decide if you are ready to foster.
Stage 3: Apply to foster
As fostering is sensitive work, you won’t be surprised to learn that the application form is thorough.
There is information that we need to gather from you by law, and some information we need to understand to allow us to decide if you are suited to working with us. All of your personal details will be respected and kept confidential.
Your completed application form will be reviewed by our knowledgeable recruitment team to see if you meet the relevant initial criteria, and are right for fostering with us.
Stage 4: Preparation training
We’ll invite you to our initial two day training course to introduce you to fostering.
The training course is the beginning of your assessment process and where we start to get to really know you. We appreciate that some people may feel anxious attending a training course, but don’t worry, you won’t be expected to do anything that might make you feel uncomfortable.
Our trainers are friendly and thoughtful, they will make the course light-hearted and enjoyable. They will be keen to make you feel comfortable and will welcome you discussing with them any concerns you may have.
Foster parents tell us that they found their preparation training to be valuable and insightful.
Stage 5: Fostering assessment
The next step to fostering is we appoint an Independent Social Worker to carry out your fostering assessment, which usually involves around 6 visits to your home. The report they produce is what we use to help Local Authorities match a child they wish to refer.
Whilst your assessment is underway we will process statutory and optional checks, such as a DBS (Disclosure & Barring Service), personal and professional references. These checks are necessary to ensure that vulnerable children are entrusted to the care of people who are safe and secure.
Stage 6: Approval & First foster child
Your assessment report will be presented to our Fostering Panel meeting. This panel consists of various independent people with fostering, education and relevant backgrounds.
Applicants are expected to attend the panel meeting. The panel members will ask questions about the report and yourselves, and make a recommendation to us on your suitability as a Foster Parent.
Once the Panel has made its recommendation to us, our Decision Maker will make the final decision regarding your approval.
It is very rare indeed that once a family is presented to panel that they are not successful in being approved.
If approved, you will then be ready to foster! Your dedicated Link Worker and team will then be in contact to talk through how they will match a child with you.
Answers to the most commonly asked questions about fostering.
Ready for more
Foster care is a protective service to children and their families when families can no longer care for their children. There are many reasons and circumstances that make it difficult for biological families to meet the needs of their children, which include poverty, substance abuse, mental illness, homelessness, loss of a job or lack of support from extended family and community.
In foster care, the children are provided with a safe, nurturing, loving family for a temporary period of time. There are many types of foster care, including traditional care, emergency/shelter care, medical/therapeutic care, relative/kinship care, respite/short-term care and tribal care. However, foster parenting is not a lifetime commitment to a child and his or her family, but a commitment to be meaningful in the child and family’s lifetime.
What foster care is:
- a chance to make the world a better place — one child at a time
- one of the most challenging experiences you will have in your life
- one of the most rewarding opportunities you will ever volunteer for
What foster care is not:
- it is not simple: emotionally, socially or in terms of your time
- it is not something you do for yourself – it’s about the child
- it is not a way to make money
How to Become a Foster Family
Foster Parent Qualifications
Step 1: Find a Phone Number or an Email Address
The Child Welfare Information Gateway – State Resources is a great place to find contact information for your state. Look for the Foster Care & Adoption Directory.
In addition, your Department of Human Services or Department of Children and Family Services will have a listing of approved agencies. You can find foster care agencies in your area through an Internet search. A typical Internet search may involve key phrases, such as “becoming a foster parent Minnesota” or “foster care Minnesota”.
There are also a websites that can help you find county and local agencies, such as AdoptUSKids and Child Welfare Information Gateway.
Step 2: Make the Call
Once you have identified an agency or agencies, the best way to start the process is to make a phone call. The agency will ask for personal information such as your name, address and phone number so they may send information about the agency and the licensing/certification process. They may also discuss your motivation and their need for foster families.
If there are multiple foster care agencies in your area, be sure to contact several. It is important to find an agency with which you are comfortable. In many states you can chose to become a foster parent with the public agency (state or county) or chose a privately run foster care agency.
Step 3: Initial Meeting
Some agencies offer information meetings. At an information meeting the agency presents an overview of the role and responsibilities of foster parents. Information is also given about the agency’s need for foster parents and the type of children they serve in foster care.
Other agencies will schedule an appointment in your home for the initial meeting. Similar introductory information will be provided and the agency may begin to gather information about you.
Whether you attend an information meeting at the agency or meet in your home, the first meeting will likely end with the licensing worker giving you an application and forms to complete. The worker should also give you a copy of the state foster care licensing rules and regulations.
Step 4: Exploring Your Interests and Capabilities
Step 5: Family Assessment
The family assessment is sometimes referred to as a “home study.” It involves gathering information about each member of your family and formally assessing your capability to care for children. The agency will likely ask you to complete a social history and several questionnaires. In addition, the licensing worker will ask you many questions about your childhood, relationships and interests. The assessment is extensive — but usually not difficult — and gives you an opportunity to think about yourself, your interests and your motivations.
Many agencies conduct the family assessment in group sessions and combine it with orientation and training. There are several curriculums, such as Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education (PRIDE) or the Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting (MAPP), which provide a formal process for the assessment. Other agencies may conduct the assessment and initial orientation on an individual basis.
The processes of getting approved to foster and adopt are very similar. Many states require that families applying to adopt also become licensed to foster
States are increasingly moving toward what is referred to as a “dual licensing” process, meaning that parents are approved to both foster and adopt. There are several good reasons for this trend. Dual licensing acknowledges the need for foster parents, streamlines procedures, avoids delays, and recognizes that the majority of children adopted from child welfare are adopted by their foster parents. It also benefits parents and children in many ways. Parents gain experience parenting, especially parenting children who have experienced trauma, children make fewer moves, and the family begins to bond.
In general, there are four steps to getting approved:
- Locate an agency in your state. Find state foster care and adoption information on our website or contact us to be referred to your state agency: 888-200-4005 or [email protected]
- Complete an application with the agency you have chosen to work with. This may take place concurrent with the next step, pre-service training.
- Attend training. These sessions, usually lasting between four and ten weeks, provide an opportunity to learn about children in care, meet other families, and prepare to integrate a child or children into your family.
- Complete a home study. All adoptive families, and some foster families, must complete a home study.
Completing an application
This is where the official paperwork begins and where you will meet the caseworker who will help you through the application process.
In child welfare, generally there are two types of caseworkers—family workers who work with families and child workers who work with the children in care. To make the application process as smooth as possible:
- Be open and honest both on the application and in the personal interviews with your caseworker.
- Supply the necessary information completely, accurately, and timely.
- Ask for help if you don’t understand something.
- Agree to maintain confidentiality about children in care and their birth families.
- Cooperate with the home inspection and required criminal background and protective service checks (for more information on required checks, see Child Welfare Information Gateway’s summary of state laws on criminal background checks for prospective foster and adoptive parents).
If you have concerns about something specific that might disqualify you from fostering or adopting, talk with your caseworker about it. Some agencies may be able to work with your family, depending on the specifics of the incident and its resolution. If your caseworker finds you to be deceptive or dishonest, or if documents collected during the home study process expose inconsistencies, the agency may not approve your application.
As part of completing an application, you will need to be prepared to provide or consent to:
- Letters of reference from your employer and those who know you.
- A criminal record check at local, state, and federal levels.
- Proof of meeting the minimum age requirement in your state.
- Verification of income to meet your expenses. (Please note that you don’t have to be rich to foster or adopt and that most adoptions from foster care are free and any minimal fees associated with it are often reimbursable.
Participating in pre-service training and obtaining a home study
The process of training to become a foster parent or adopt from foster care is generally referred to as “pre-service training” or “pre-adoption training.”
While requirements vary from state to state—and in some cases, from county to county—pre-service training programs are almost always required and usually happen right before or at the same time you’re completing your application to adopt. These trainings help you understand what your new foster or adoptive child has been through and how to best integrate them into your family.
Read more about the training required to be a foster parent and adopt.
After you have completed your application and required training, you and your caseworker will need to complete a home study if you are adopting. In some states, a home study is also required to foster.
A home study is conducted to help you and your agency decide if adoption or foster care is right for you and identify the type of child or children who will be the best match for your family. The process—which includes interviews, home visits, documentation of key information, and reference checks with people who know you well and can speak to your capacity to adopt —concludes with a home study report written by your caseworker. This report will often include the age range and number of children recommended for your family. When adopting, the report will also include the conditions and characteristics of the children that you want and that the caseworker concurs you can successfully integrate into your family.
The home study report is often used to introduce your family to other agencies to help them match your family with a child. If you aren’t given a copy of your home study, ask to see it so you can look it over and correct any inaccuracies.
Thank you for your interest in becoming a DCS Foster Parent and providing care for children in need of safety and security.
First, consider if you are eligible. Do you meet the initial criteria?
You must be able to:
- Give without the expectation of immediate returns;
- Have room in your home and in your daily life;
- Learn and use proven behavioral management skills;
- Love and care for children with problems;
- Support birth families and help a child return home.
Foster Parents can be:
- Single or Married
- With, or without, children of their own.
- At least 21 years of age;
- Must be fingerprinted and pass a background check;
- Participate in an Informational Meeting;
- Must complete a training program called TN-KEY;
- Participate in a Home Study;
- Provide documentation of a sufficient income;
- Complete a health exam;
DCS carefully assesses all applicants and the department also provides the opportunity for prospective Foster Parents to work with a case manager to assess themselves before they accept the role of Foster Parent.
Still interested? If so, here is what is next:
Select and complete the inquiry form for potential foster parents. If you have questions before beginning this process, please indicate this in the comment section of the inquiry form or leave a message at our toll-free number, 1-877-DCS-KIDS.
Foster Care staff will contact you to answer any questions before processing your inquiry. After your inquiry has been processed, staff wiill assist you in registering for a required introduction to foster care Information Meeting.