The Foster Care Process

Step 1: Contact Social Services and Get Trained

The process of becoming a foster parent will differ state to state and sometimes county to county. At a high level, there are three major steps: training, screen and matching.

To start, prospective foster parents contact a state department (e.g. Administration for Children’s Services) to register and attend a 2 - 3 hour orientation on the process of becoming a foster parent and generally who is well-suited to welcoming home a foster child.

If you continue to be interested, you’ll go through a certification process (sometimes 30 hours or longer), where you’ll be trained to reflect upon your strengths and “development points” for becoming a foster parent, as well as learn what your rights and responsibilities are to your foster child.

This process often takes a few weeks to complete.

Step 2: Home Study and Getting Screened

After (or sometimes in conjunction with) training, the state assesses whether you’re in a good position to become a foster parent. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a perfect individual, but rather you’re physically, financially, and emotionally up to the task.

This step in the process isn’t necessarily hard, but does require real organization: making appointments, running down documents, getting sign-offs, and from start to finish, lasts a few months.

Specifically, a doctor needs to provide a note of medical clearance that you’re well enough to take care of a child. In addition, all adults living in the house must be fingerprinted and pass a screen for no known criminal history. You must demonstrate (often through tax records and bank statements) you can pay your own bills and aren’t doing this to receive state assistance.

A lot of the paperwork will be physically collected during a “home study” when a state social worker visits the home where a foster child would live. During the home study, the social worker will try to get to know you, your habits and visualize what life will be like for a child under your care. The home itself must be in compliance with all local zoning, safety and fire codes. While your home doesn’t need to be kept spotless, the social worker will evaluate if it is clean, safe and in good repair. The exact requirements for the number of bedrooms and sleeping arrangements vary from state to state, but across the board, the idea is that the social worker is evaluating whether or not you are able to provide a safe, stable physical environment for the child in need.

Yes, there are rules about which criteria a social worker can use to assess “fitness” but the reality is that this is still a subjective call on their part. Encouragingly, we hear far fewer stories today about people feeling discriminated against based on marital status or sexual orientation, two topics will cover towards the end of the course.

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Foster Care 101

In this course we'll cover the steps to starting the foster process, how to help children who've suffered emotional and physical trauma, how to navigate transracial challenges, what the process looks like for single and LGBTQ individuals, and the process of adopting through the foster care system.