What Are the Requirements to Become a Foster Parent?

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Please know that requirements that each foster care agency or state use to determine who can become a foster parent vary from state to state. However, there are many requirements that are similar due to the nature of providing care to children in need. These items may include safety issues and personal background checks on those interested in becoming a foster parent.

The process to become a foster parent begins with the filing out of an application. This will be true no matter where the prospective foster parent resides. Within this application process, there are several areas that will be considered and evaluated before the foster care agency will select a family to provide foster care to children in need.

  • Personal or Family Life
    • Age Every state has an age requirement set that dictates when a person is old enough to provide foster care. The lowest age is, of course, 18, but most states require that the age of a potential foster parent must be at least 21.
    • Health A physical completed by a doctor or a registered nurse is also required by each state as well. It’s important that those interested in providing foster care be in good health. Stable emotional and mental health are also very important as working with children who have been abused and neglected can be emotionally exhausting.
    • Relationship Status Foster parents can be married, or single. If newly married, some states may prefer that the couple be married a few years before licensing. Check to see what your state has listed as a requirement on this issue. Also, know that most states have no problem with gay foster parents.
    • Parenting Experience Prospective foster parents can have absolutely no past parenting experience and still be licensed to provide foster care. Provided training, other foster parents, and social workers will help with the discipline piece or any other parenting challenge that may occur while fostering a child.
    • Finances Potential foster parents must also be financially secure enough to meet the current needs of their family. The foster care subsidy is not to be considered as a salary or income. When starting the foster care licensing paperwork and during each yearly re-licensing process, be prepared to share past income tax statements and paycheck stubs with your chosen licensing foster care agency.
  • Background and Reference Checks
    Prospective foster parents should expect to be fingerprinted. Know also that background checks will be conducted. Any past crimes against a person, especially crimes against a child, may prevent you from being licensed.
    If there is something in your history that you are concerned about, such as a DUI, drug charge, or other past indiscretion, please bring it up to your foster care agency as soon as possible. It may be something that can be worked out through an expungement. If not, being upfront quickly about it will prevent you and the agency from wasting a lot of time and energy.
    The foster care agency will contact your references and ask them to fill out a form answering questions like - how long they have known you, why you are interested in becoming a foster parent, and if they would trust you with their own children.
  • The Foster Home
    Prospective foster parents do not need to own their own home. They can rent a home or even live in an apartment. The foster home must be clean and clear from clutter. It also must be safe for children. Regulations on safety for a foster home will also vary by state. The following lists different areas of concern that are pretty universal:
    • Fencing around pools or ponds
    • Guns and weapons secured
    • Stairways have railings
    • Bedroom sizes
    • Fire escapes posted and smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in each bedroom
    • Medication, knives, and cleaners stored up high or in locked containers
    • Basement windows large enough for escape and/or rescue by firemen