Interested in becoming a licensed foster parent? Use these 8 steps to help guide you through the process.
Becoming a foster parent is a huge decision.
First of all, completing the paperwork, classes, and certifications is intense and takes a great deal of time.
Secondly, your choice impacts your family and the future children you welcome into your home.
And however hard it is and will be, it will also be amazing if you are prepared.
Before you decide, research as much as possible.
I should have talk to more families in our area about fostering and adopting through foster care to get the most realistic picture of what to expect.
But becoming a foster parent was one of the best (and most challenging) experiences and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
Keep in mind, foster parent guidelines and regulations vary based on the state and county in which you reside.
Please make sure to check with a local agency or your local DSS office in regards to specific requirements in your area.
The steps below are generally what you need to follow to become a foster parent.
1. Do your research
Use your resources to find out as much about foster care as you can.
A ton of great resource are on the internet about foster care in general. You will also want to look at the Child Welfare Services website in your county.
Find a local foster parent Facebook group. This is a great place to reach out to people and ask about their experience with foster care in your area.
I love research and read every single article on the internet I could find, but I did not speak to a variety of foster parents in my area.
I have friends who foster in other states, and it is slightly different than it is in NC, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.
You will now have a starting point for deciding if you should use an agency or go through your county when becoming a foster family.
2. Make the decision
Becoming a foster family is a huge decision and you must include everyone in your household.
If you are married, your husband or wife must be 100% on board. Foster care is tough both parents must be all in.
If you have kids, they must be on board too. With kids, you want to make sure they understand what foster care is the best they can depending on their age.
Children’s books about foster care may help when talking to young kids about your decision.
3. attend an information session
Most counties and agencies offer an orientation or information session.
The agency we chose to work with had a social worker come to our house to speak about their foster care program.
This visit wasn’t a part of the home study, but she allowed us to ask questions about what to expect – and of course they probably checked out too to make sure we weren’t crazy.
However it is offered, make sure you go to an orrentiation or information session before commiting to MAPP training.
4. Complete MAPP training
MAPP (Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting) training is typically the training provided to future foster parents.
It may be called something different depending on your area, but there will most likely be a training you must complete.
We attended our training twice a week for about 6 weeks. Most of the classes I have seen are completed in 6 to 9 weeks depending on the agency.
I found this training helpful, interesting, and informative. Pay attention to everything. You will use the majority of the information at one point or another.
They will talk about everything from attachment, to birth families, to finding resources.
It is a great base for what you will need to know when you are a foster parent.
As part of our training we also had to get CPR/First Aid certified and complete medical administration training.
5. Prepare your home
Most likely, you won’t need to do much to your home to get it ready.
What you need to do to get your home ready to pass the home study will vary from state to state.
For us, the requirements included:
- A fire extinguisher mounted on the wall.
- A fire exit plan posted by the door.
- All cleaning supplies moved out of reach (child locks were not sufficient in our area).
- A lock box for medicine.
- A fire ladder for our second floor.
Getting our home ready did not take long. The child’s room did not be completely finished or ready, but you will have to show the social worker the space you plan to use.
6. Complete the home Study
The home study for foster care is a little more involved than the home study for private adoption.
The social worker completing your home study will do two or three home visits to make sure your home is ready.
They will ask you a ton of questions about your relationships, family, personal history and more.
Our social worker also had us fill out some questionnaires, so it was a mix of interviews and written documentation.
This part was much more in depth than our interview for adoption. They want to know EVERYTHING about your past, present, and future.
You can find an example of questions you may be asked during your foster care home study in the resource library.
We did not have to have the child’s room completely ready to pass our homes study, but had to show her the room we would be using and tell her how many beds we would have.
7. Get the child's room ready
While you are waiting to get your official license, it’s a good time to prepare the room you will be using for foster care.
How you set up the room will depend on the ages you are getting licensed for.
While setting up the room, you don’t need to do anything elaborate or expensive. Include basic necessities and create a welcoming environment.
8. Get your License and Wait
After you finish the classes, complete your home study, and everything else you worked so hard for, you will wait to get your license from the state.
5 months after we started our training, we received our license.
Then we waited to get the call that our home was needed for a placement. Anticipating our first placement caused anxiety and excitement at the same time.
But it was also heartbreaking, knowing every foster placement is a result of trauma.
And all the research and training in the world will not prepare you for the trauma you take on as foster parents to help the children in your care heal.
As you begin your journey, research, research, research! Take in all the information possible as you move forward.
The more you know, the more prepared you will be.
Please share in the comments anything you have learned along the way.