Becoming a foster parent has become much more difficult in recent years. Most states require that foster parents attend classes, undergo home visits and fill out paperwork that allows the state to investigate their backgrounds. Although the red tape might seem frustrating if you want to become a foster parent, it's done to help keep children safer while in foster care. Each state sets its own rules for certifying or licensing foster parents.
Learning About Foster Care
The first step toward becoming a certified foster parent is to learn more about what fostering a child involves. Social workers conduct group orientation programs for families interested in foster care. At this initial meeting, you'll meet other people interested in the foster care program and get answers to basic questions about what's involved, the payment process for foster care and whether or not you're likely to be approved as a foster parent. Most states have regulations governing the age of foster parents. Some also regulate your marital status, income and amount of space in your house. All do background checks and prohibit people with a history of certain crimes from becoming foster parents.
Undergoing a Home Study
No matter where you live, social workers from your state will need to inspect your home and determine whether it's a safe place for a child to live. You don't have to have a fancy house or a big house, but you must have adequate sleeping space for a foster child. In most states, you must have enough bedrooms so that children of the opposite sex don't share a room. In many states, children beyond the infant stage can't share a room with adults. Most states require that you install smoke detectors and that you store hazardous items, such as medications or firearms, out of children's access.
Taking Training Classes
Many states have mandatory training sessions that all prospective foster parents must attend, or require a certain number of hours training for fostering. Others make training available but don't mandate it. Foster classes teach parents how to handle common issues in foster children, such as the effects of abandonment or abuse, cultural issues, dealing with birth families and coping skills for dealing with crisis situations. Classes also discuss the impact of foster children on a family, how to discipline, and home and safety issues pertaining to children. Once you're certified as a foster parent, many states have yearly in-service or continuing education requirements to maintain certification.
Kinship Foster Care
If the child you wish to foster is a relative, you may still need to undergo the training and approval process to receive certification as a foster parent. Under this program, the state's child welfare agency maintains legal custody and responsibility for the child. Although kinship foster care provides money to help you care for a relative's child, you're subject to the most of same regulations and limitations of any foster parent. However, because kinship foster care has benefits for the child, many states waive or modify non-safety regulations on a case-by-case basis to make kinship fostering available to more children.