Becoming a foster parent is a fantastic way to ensure that a child grows up knowing that someone cared. Not everyone wants to adopt children, but they want to create a safe place for children in need. Foster parenting is a great way to do that. Other people want to adopt, but the fees and administrative process are daunting. Many begin as foster parents, and the process can be exceptionally less expensive. Whichever reason you want to be a foster parent is fantastic. The process will sometimes vary from state to state or even with certain situations, but the general process involves beginning with your local foster care organization.
How Much Long Does It Take to Become a Foster Parent?
There is no simple answer to how long it takes to become a foster parent. You must follow the protocol set forth by the agency that you choose to certify your home and family. Of course, some situations will vary, but foster care certification is not a quick process. It will take a minimum of several months and could take a year or more.
What’s The Process Like?
While the specific process will vary by state and possibly even country, most agencies have similar requirements. Parents will need to ensure that they research the agency for its reputability before beginning. Unfortunately, not all agencies have the best interests of children at heart. The following are standard requirements for all agencies.
Familiarize Yourself with Agency Protocols
Most agencies list their requirements on their websites or will answer questions by phone. Before beginning, it’s a good idea to research your chosen agency and find out what they require. You do not want to begin the process with someone and not have the needed materials.
Provide Quality 24 Hour Care
Some people get confused about this requirement. Providing twenty-four-hour care does not mean that you have to spend every moment with the child. You are permitted to have a job and continue other commitments. However, childcare must be secured before becoming a foster parent. In addition, you must have a support system to care for the child if you are unavailable due to work or school.
Be Financially Secure
You do not need to be a millionaire to be a foster parent. However, you do have to be able to pay your own bills without any stipend that you might get for caring for foster children. This stipend is designed to offset any increases in power, water, food, transportation, childcare, or clothing expenses that come with the addition of a child.
Be Loving and Patient
This one is non-negotiable. There’s no way around it. Foster children will need love and patience. Sometimes they have been in bad situations for long periods, and they need stability and patience. Love and support are critical for children at this stage.
Some children have been in several foster homes and need to know that this isn’t just another stop for them. They need to know that you are there and will help and support them. Help and support do not mean permissiveness, though. It’s good to set rules and require them to be followed, but you can be a little flexible in the beginning.
Keep a Safe Home
Your home does not have to rival the Taj Mahal. On the contrary, many excellent foster families have simple homes with a lot of love. However, the homes do need to be safe and reasonably free of fire hazards and safety concerns. Your foster children will need to be in a safe environment, and many of them never have.
Complete Administrative Requirements
Unfortunately, paperwork and home visits are just a part of foster care. It can be disruptive to have someone show up unannounced or to have to fill out tons of paperwork. However, these things are required to ensure that you can pass background checks and are a stable household. This does not mean that you must be free of life’s events. Everyone has a cooking mishap and orders pizza now and then. It’s fine to grab fast food on the way home from an exceptionally hard day at work. Laundry on the couch in the process of being folded isn’t going to preclude you from licensure. These are just the things that happen sometimes.
Recertify on Time
Most agencies and states have recertification requirements. They are generally every two years or so. You should keep track of when this is required by your agency so that you do not miss your recertification. It’s also a good idea to ask what happens if your certification lapses just in case something prevents timely completion.
Familiarize Yourself with the Foster to Adoption Process (If interested)
Find out what your state or agency requires for foster care to adoption. Sometimes the certification is similar and can be done concurrently. Other times, it is different, and you must be certified with different criteria. Familiarizing yourself with this process early means that you can often skip repeating steps.
Choosing to be a foster parent is choosing to love a child that you didn’t conceive. This can be one of the best things you ever do for your family and the child who comes into your home. Children of all ages need foster parents. If you are uncomfortable with babies, teens often get forgotten, and they can be quite rewarding to invite into your home. Foster parenting does not come without problems, but you will generally find that the rewards far outweigh the challenges. Be a team player ready to meet the needs of children whose needs are not being met now. The simplest thing may be the one thing they have needed for a long time. Be open to learning from them too. Children can teach adults some of their most valuable lessons.
Read More: Who are Foster Parents?