Around 425,000 children are in the United States foster care system. Unfortunately, in many areas, there is an ongoing shortage of foster parents. While there may be a number of factors influencing this problem, it’s not as difficult to get started in foster care as some may think. Here is an overview of the process.
Find a Local Foster Care Agency
Every area will have a public foster care agency, as well as at least one private one. A private agency generally offers more personalized and prompt attention. You may get faster return service on phone calls and emails, less bureaucracy, and speedier home studies. If there are several private agencies in your area, select the agency that has the staff with whom you feel the most comfortable.
Attend an Orientation
Every agency offers an orientation, at which they explain what’s involved in fostering. This meeting can be anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours long and offers a basic overview of the fostering programs available. After this orientation, you will have the opportunity to fill out an application in order to proceed with the process of becoming foster parents.
Complete a Background Check
You will need to get fingerprinted for your background check. Generally, there are multiple fingerprinting locations in your area. In California, Live Scan fingerprinting services are available at locations throughout the state. A technician needs to perform the fingerprinting and send it to the Department of Justice, who will then use it to produce your RAP sheets (records of arrest and prosecution).
Complete a Home Study
A home study is required to assess if your home meets the requirements for hosting foster children. The requirements vary from state to state, but generally your home is required to:
- Comply with codes.
- Be clean.
- Be in working order (phone, appliances, running water, heating, lighting, ventilation, etc.)
- Have adequate bedroom space.
- Be safe (with guns, ammunition, medications, paints, motor oils, etc, locked away and fences and guards installed for fireplaces, pools, balconies, and the like).
Every agency will require you to go through a training. This can be anywhere from two hours to several weeks in duration. The training will go in-depth on the unique situations you might face as a foster parent and might cover such thing as behavioral problems, discipline, sibling issues, mental health, and more. Be prepared to learn a lot.
Foster parenting is not only a valuable contribution to society, but also an investment in the lives of the most vulnerable of society. All you need to do is get started.