How to Become a Foster Parent

Fostering Children

Many people have questions about fostering children. They wonder what it’s like to foster a child and if it’s something their family should even consider. Others feel a pull towards children in crisis and wonder how to become a foster parent. Fostering children can be one of greatest gifts a family can offer a child. But, before learning how to become a foster parent, it’s important to understand what it means to foster children.

What is a Foster Parent?

The National Adoption Center describes the foster care system as a temporary arrangement in which adults care for a child or children whose birth parent is unable to care for them. The goal for children in the foster system is reunification with the birth family. But, if that is unable to happen, adoption is also a possibility. Foster care is the temporary care of a child whereas adoption is  adoption is permanent.

Why are Children Entered into Foster Care?

Those wondering how to become a foster parent probably also wonder why children enter foster care. Truthfully, children enter the foster care system for many reasons. Adoption.com has identified the 8 main reasons a child enters foster care.

  1. Abuse. There are many forms of abuse children can experience. Abuse can be physical, sexual, or emotional. A court may decide it’s in the best interest of a child experiencing abuse to enter the foster care system.
  2. Neglect. Neglect is a form of abuse. Neglect can include leaving a child alone for extended periods of time or not supplying adequate food, clothing, or shelter.
  3. Illness. Sometimes a parent is too sick to take care of their children. In these circumstances foster care may be the best temporary solution until the parent get better.
  4. Incarceration. An incarcerated parent will not be able to care for their child. Children with incarcerated parents may enter the foster care system until their parent is out of jail.
  5. Death. Some children enter the foster care system due to the death of their parent or parents. If there is no family able to care for the child, he/she will enter foster care.
  6. Drug Abuse. Unfortunately, drug abuse is another common reason children enter the foster care system. A parent struggling with drug abuse could lead to child abuse or neglect.
  7. Child’s Choice. If a child runs away, or has broken the law, sometimes the child may have a say in their placement into foster care.
  8. Voluntary Placement. There are also times when a parent voluntarily places their child into the foster care system. There could be many reason a parent might voluntarily relinquish their rights as a parent and enter their child into the foster care system.

The big idea here is the foster care system supports families in crisis. The goal is to protect children from crisis and abuse as much as possible. But, the plan is still to return the children in the system back to their parents.    

How to Become a Foster Parent

The process to become a foster parent may differ from state to state. But, many pieces of the process are the same. Understanding the general requirements to foster may help you decide if fostering could be a good fit for your family.  

General Requirements in Arizona

There are several requirements for those interested in fostering.

  1. You are at least 21 years of age.
  2. An adult in your home reads, writes, and speaks English.
  3. You have an income sufficient to meet your basic needs.
  4. You are free from any mental or physical danger that might endanger a child.
  5. Able to obtain a medical statement stating you have no conditions that would interfere with your ability to provide care for a foster child.
  6. You or family members have not been convicted of a felony.
  7. Have a home or apartment that could pass a fire inspection.
  8. Can obtain 36 hours of training prior to being licensed.
  9. Can handle opening your home to planned and unplanned professional visits.

If you can answer yes to these general requirements, then you probably meet the minimum requirements to foster a child. It’s also important to point out that marital status is not a requirement for the foster care system.

Foster Care Process

It’s important to know there are many private and public organizations that are ready to help you in your process to become a foster parent. Organizations like Transitions Children’s Services might focus on the fostering needs of a particular city. Others, like Fostercare.com serve multiple states. The Child Welfare Information Gateway – State Resources is a great place to find contact information for your state. Also, look for the Foster Care & Adoption Directory to find foster care info specifically related to your state.

The process to become a foster parent may differ for each state, but here is the general process:

  1. Reach Out to Foster Care Agency
  2. Fill Out an Application
  3. Attend Training (hours and class subjects differ by state)
  4. Receive a “Home Study”
  5. Finalize paperwork, background check, etc.

Those interested in how to become a foster parent, should begin by calling a local foster care agency. This will begin your journey towards fostering children. The agency will probably ask you to fill out an initial application and then to come in for an initial interview. Because fostering a child in crisis is a big deal, the individual representing the agency will want to make sure you understand the challenges of fostering vulnerable children.

If you are interested in becoming a foster parent in Arizona, please click the link below for more information on the foster care crisis and how you can help a child in need.