How does foster care work?
Almost seven hundred thousand children have been in the child welfare system, according to foster care system statistics from the year 2019. It can be overwhelming even to know where to begin if you're interested in becoming a licensed foster parent with how large the system is.
Do you want to find out more about what the foster care system is and how it works? Keep reading to understand the basics to feel more comfortable knowing the current foster care system.
What Is the Foster Care System?
Who is responsible for running the foster care system? The foster care system works on a local, state Department of Social Services, and federal level to provide safe home environments for children neglected or abandoned by their guardians.
The people taking care of the children can be relatives or friends, kinship, or foster care parents. The living arrangement is meant to be temporary until a more permanent solution can be made for the children and the birth parents' support.
Many children are placed under the care of relatives or foster parents who can house them in their homes, known as Foster Homes. The remaining children stay in group homes, institutions, or supervised independent living if they are old enough. Group homes constitute homes with six or more children.
The foster care system represents ages from infancy to twenty-one years old. The average age in foster care is around eight years old. There are slightly more boys than girls.
A child typically spends around two years in the system before they enter a situation with a permanent residency. These permanent residencies can include being reunited with their biological parents, known as the birth family, being adopted, or emancipating from the foster care system.
The foster care system is set in place to act as a temporary living situation until the child can be reunited with their birth parents, unless they are dead, incarcerated, or incapable of caring for the child or helping with child development.
About one hundred thousand children in the foster care system are eligible for adoption, giving them the permanent families we all want for a child entering the foster care system if they can not return home. Permanency planning takes time, and many invested adults help make the right choice for a child in a foster care program. Social workers are the advocates to allow the court to find the best foster family and placement for children in their care.
How Does the Foster Care System Work?
The foster care system itself is intricate and complex. It starts on a federal government level. The federal government funds the states an amount of money to run welfare programs for foster care in the US. They mainly control the grand operations of things, including funding and legislation.
It is up to the local and state government to run non-profit foster care organizations. The United States Department of Health and Human Services organizes the Children's Bureau. The bureau is mainly responsible for improving the adoption and foster care processes while preventing child abuse.
They aim to provide resources for children in dire circumstances, who need safe home environments. Because of the systems and organizations they have implemented, they aim to prevent the mistreatment of children, including abuse and neglect. They also focus on reuniting the children with their families or finding a different permanent situation if it is unsafe for a reunion.
There are also private agencies licensed by the state, that can provide foster parent training and certification and can help you find a child to foster.
How to Be a Foster Parent
There are many requirements to become a foster parent, but you do not have to be married to become one. Here are some of the needs you have to meet to become a foster parent.
- Older than twenty-one years
- Have space for a child in your home
- Have financial resources for a child
- Home meets certain standards
- Good physical and mental health
- Pass a background check
- Complete ongoing training
Specific requirements may vary based on the state you live in. Some states say the child must have their own room. Other states' requirements state that the child only needs their own bed and storage space.
In Virginia, the requirement is that the child must have their own bed. Always look into your state's specific qualifications.
Foster Care Licensing
Beyond meeting the basic requirements to be eligible to be a foster parent, you have to obtain a license as well. While there will be some discrepancies depending on which state you live in, the process looks roughly the same to get your foster parent license.
You'll want to call the Division of Social Services and request information on becoming a foster parent. This information will provide further details on what is expected of foster parents and what to do next. Some foster care agencies host orientation sessions to get this information to apply from there.
Then, you'll fill out an application to be a foster parent, if your application is approved, you'll undergo a home study. This involves extensive background checks and at least one visit to your home to determine if it is suitable for a foster child. Background checks will be performed on you and anyone else in your family over the age of eighteen living in your home.
With all of this in progress, you'll attend foster care training. The course gives you an idea of how to be a good foster parent, defuse difficult situations, and respond to children with special needs. This course demands you pass thirty hours of credits in training.
If the background checks and home inspection pass, you'll become a certified foster parent, along with completing the foster care training course. After this, you can request which type of children you'd like to foster most.
Suppose any children enter the system that matches you. In that case, you will be notified and arranged with a child social worker through your Child Placing Agency to bring the child to your home for pre-placement or Emergency Placement.
Become a Foster Parent
Since the foster care system is so complex, it's essential to cover all of your bases before deciding to become a foster parent. However, most people wanting to foster have the right intentions but may feel stifled by the stipulations required to become a foster parent.
Don't let these stipulations set you back from becoming a great foster parent. Fill out Foster VA's inquiry form here to gather more information on fostering and signing up to foster children in need.