Becoming a foster parent
Change a child's life forever.
The data are difficult to believe, but the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute states that today in the United States there are approximately 581,000 children in the foster care system. The numbers are truly staggering, and many families may feel completely overwhelmed by the realities of how many children need permanent homes in our country. Although it is easy to throw up our hands or leave the children's care to the government, the way to really help these children is by becoming a foster parent.
Who are the Children?
Many of the children in foster care have been taken from their parents or guardians because of abuse or neglect. In some instances, the parents of the children have voluntarily chosen to relinquish their parental rights because of other circumstances, such as financial distress or mental health issues. Other children in the foster care system were born with developmental or physical disabilities whose parents decided to place them into the system.
Foster care children range in ages from newborns to teenagers; and many sibling groups need to be placed together. Often the newborns and younger children are not available for adoption, because their parents are working toward regaining custody of their children. These children are usually from difficult situations, and anyone who cares for them must keep their background in mind when establishing behavioral expectations and performing discipline.
There are many paths you can take if you are interested in becoming a foster parent. You can either contact your state's Department of Protective Services and let them know that you are interested in finding out more information, or you can contact one of the many private foster care and adoption agencies that help clients go through the process. Any agency will usually assign you a caseworker, who will then set up your necessary training and background checks.
Training for becoming a foster parent varies from state to state, but usually runs between 30 and 60 hours, which will most likely include dealing with children of abuse and neglect, first aid certification, and discipline decisions.
Before beginning any training, however, anyone who wished to become a foster parent will have to have a home study performed both on their home and their family. A trained professional caseworker will inspect their home for safety precautions and for sufficient room for the addition of any children.
There will also be an extensive background check of all adults who will be caring for the foster children, and the agency will then contact several references who can provide the agency with information about your ability to care for foster children. Once the agency is confident that your family would offer a good foster home, it will begin working with you to find children who will blend well with your family.
Who can Foster?
In most states, married couples with or without children or single parents can become foster parents. There are usually stipulations for married couples, such as having been married for more than two years.
All agencies will also require that the home has enough room and beds to handle adding additional children—however, the children are able to share rooms, if necessary.
You do not have to be rich to foster, and in fact, you will receive some reimbursement for the costs associated with becoming a foster parent; however, you do have to have sufficient income to meet your household expenses without the foster care reimbursement.