Foster care is a program, licensed by your state, which allows stand-in parents referred to as foster parents to care for minor children who have been removed from their biological home. There are a number of reasons why children might be removed from their biological home, including abuse and neglect. Often, parents who have had their children removed from their home are given a plan to follow which will result in their regaining custody of their children upon successful completion.
The main goal of foster care is reunification, although it isn’t uncommon for children placed in foster care to become available for adoption.
There are two very unfortunate misconceptions about foster parenting. One, that it is somehow inferior to adoption and two, that there is only one kind of meaningful foster care which is long-term or permanent.
Foster parenting and adoption serve different functions. Being a foster parent requires special qualities. It is not an alternative for people who aren’t “good enough” to adopt! In many ways foster care is more challenging than adoption, the children may be more troubled, especially at arrival. It is definitely not true however, that all foster children are irreparably damaged or delinquents. Many of them just need stability in their lives as their birth family homes are helped so that the children can return.
Sure, there can be challenges as there is with anything that is complex and involves many people, and regulations. In some cases, working closely with birth families can be difficult and in other cases just fine. It is important to remember that Children’s Services has parental authority while the child is in foster care. Some people express concern or anxiety caring for a foster child with the understanding that the child may be placed back in their original family or kinship home. Or that another home may be more appropriate for the needs of their foster child whether it be another foster family or an adoptive family.
These issues are discussed during the licensing process and ongoing with the social worker assigned to the situation. When all can agree that the needs of the child come first, then your decision to provide foster care can be a blessing for all involved.
Foster care covers a number of different ways of caring for children. Some possibilities might include people who are not planning to adopt, for example, because of age. Perhaps for people who aren’t yet ready to adopt but would like to get experience caring for children. Some types of foster care are very short-term; some offer specialized levels of care; some are longer-term and some are designed to lead to adoption when and if the child’s biological parents lose their parental rights.
Foster children who are taken or relinquished into foster care are among the most vulnerable and at-risk children in our society and there is a critical shortage of qualified foster parents in the United States. On any given day there are 500,000 children in the U.S. foster care system.
There are a number of steps that potential foster parents must take in order to become licensed foster parents. Each state completes their process a little differently, but generally each state will have similar requirements.
Some requirements to become a foster parent may include the following:
- Background check and finger printing.
- Comprehensive home study to ensure child safety.
- Classroom hours.
- First aid certification.
- Medical clearances for all adults and children currently in the home.
- Statement proclaiming that corporal punishment will not be used.
- Statement advising your role as a mandated reporter.
Once you’ve completed the requirements for your state, your agency or local Child Welfare Office will contact you to advise you that your home has been approved.
Depending on the age range you’ve chosen, you could start getting calls even before your license has arrived. The need for qualified foster and foster adoptive homes in the U.S. is great and taking the steps to become a licensed foster parent is a great way to help children in your state who need a safe place to call home.
Licensed foster parents are usually reimbursed expenses accrued throughout the month by way of a monthly stipend, mailed from the state or agency you’re working with. It is not uncommon for parents to spend beyond the monthly allotment in order to care for the children in their care, but that is a personal option.