For most, becoming a foster parent is a rewarding experience, but becoming approved to house foster children in the first place can be a long and arduous process. It is no secret that there are many income and background verifications that must take place. In addition to verifying your ability to properly support foster children, both emotionally and financially, your local agency will also require you to fulfill certain requirements in and around your home.
Around the House
Foster care agencies are tasked with finding safe and appropriate home environments for children of all ages, as well as those of varying physical and intellectual levels. For this reason, most agencies will inspect and license the home for foster care based on the following factors.
1. The family home must be clean, sanitary and in good repair. Foster parents must have the means to make any necessary repairs as soon as possible.
2. No foster home is permitted to house more than two infants without additional help. This guideline often includes the biological children of the foster parents.
3. There must be working smoke detectors installed in the hallway that are audible from every bedroom. Foster parents must also ensure safety from fireplaces, heaters, and wood stoves for the children in their care.
4. All medications, poisonous chemicals, and firearms must be kept safely locked up and inaccessible to children. Any ammunition must be stored separately from firearms in the home.
5. Emergency action plans must be discussed and practiced regularly with applicable emergency information, including phone numbers, posted in a conspicuous location.
6. Pools and other bodies of water must be fenced or covered in accordance with your local foster care agency’s regulations.
7. At least one person providing routine care is required to be certified in CPR and first aid and first aid supplies and manual must be easily accessible.
In the Bedroom
While foster parents are not required to own the home in which they house their wards, there are several requirements in place to ensure that each child has his or her own space in the home.
1. Each child living in the home must have their own bed. The provided beds must be the appropriate size as based on each child’s age and size. For example, infants must have a sturdy bassinet or crib. Any bed being used by a foster child must have a good mattress and clean bedding at all times.
2. The use of bunk beds is permitted, however children under 5 and those that are unable to climb into or of the the upper bunk are not allowed to use the upper bunk. More often than not, safety rails will be required for all top bunks.
3. No more than two children may be housed in each available bedroom. Although, according to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), homeowners have the right to limit bedroom occupancy in rental properties when they feel that a bedroom may not be large enough for more than one occupant.
4. Most agencies allow children of different genders to share a room, but only when both are under 5-years-old. Similarly, two adults are permitted to share a single bedroom with up to two infant children.
5. Living rooms, dining rooms, garages and outside spaces cannot be used as bedrooms, nor can bedrooms be used as public passageways to other rooms of the home.
In conclusion, there are many ways that prospective foster parents can prepare their homes in such a way as to expedite the approval process. Knowing what your agency requires will help you provide a safe and nurturing environment for the foster children you are hoping to help.