California's Department of Social Services oversees the state's 58-county social services divisions. The Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) is responsible for the county's foster care program, which provides temporary homes for children in need of protective services. Foster care may involve temporary or long-term care until a child is reunited with family, becomes legally available for adoption or ages out of the foster care system. An individual must complete a multi-step application process to become a Los Angeles county foster parent.
What is a Foster Parent?
Foster parents provide care and support for children who cannot remain in their own homes due to abuse, neglect, abandonment or exploitation. Foster parents work with social service agencies to ensure that the children in their care receive all necessary services. Foster parents receive monthly payments for the care of foster children. The county provides health coverage for foster children and provides additional funds for clothing, community services and other expenses.
Foster Family Agencies
Los Angeles County contracts with licensed, private foster family agencies (FFA) to recruit, train and certify foster parents. FFAs place children in treatment foster care homes or non-treatment foster care homes. The agencies supervise the foster care placements and provide ongoing support for foster parents. Individuals interested in becoming foster parents may contact any FFA for additional information.
Most FFAs require potential foster parents to attend an orientation session before beginning the application process. Orientation provides information about the foster care system, child welfare laws and the application process for becoming a foster parent. Orientation sessions, which usually last from two to three hours, are held frequently throughout the month at various agencies, including Los Angeles DCFS. The orientation session is the place to ask questions before making the decision to become a foster parent.
Foster family agencies have the same general eligibility requirements for foster families and foster homes, although there may be differences in the minimum age or the number of training hours required. Los Angeles County DCFS states that age requirements are flexible and some FFAs require a minimum age of 21, while others require 25. Foster parents must have stable families. Everyone in the home where a foster child will live must demonstrate some interest in fostering a child. All residents must pass background checks and have no criminal records. The potential foster parent must have sufficient income to meet expenses. Foster parents may be single or married, male or female.
Training and Completing the Application
Foster parents receive training that covers the foster care system, parenting techniques, emotional challenges for foster children and working with biological parents. Flexible training schedules accommodate diverse groups of attendees. Foster parents must complete 24 hours of training, although different agencies may require more hours. Foster parents also are required to complete CPT and first aid training. Foster parents may receive additional training to work with children who have severe emotional challenges. Foster parents are provided with an application packet with documents that must be completed, signed and returned to the FFA with the required documentation attached before progressing to the next step in the application process.
Home Study and Inspection
The FFA conducts a home study as part of process to certify foster parents and license the foster home. A home study involves interviewing all household members and ensuring that all members are healthy. Foster parent applicants are interviewed and must agree to work collaboratively with the FFA, county staff and birth families, Foster parents also agree to comply with all laws governing foster care and child protective services. A home inspection confirms that the home is safe, clean, has enough room and is adequately furnished. Foster parents are required to have transportation, a driver's license, automobile insurance and a good driving record.
Contact the FFA and ask about its process for licensing and certifying foster parents and foster homes. Los Angeles DCFS reports a continuing need for foster parents for older adolescents and sibling groups. Call the Los Angeles county DCFS at 888-811-1121 for additional information about foster care or to locate a foster family agency.