How you become a Foster Parent with a Child Placing Agency
The journey to become a Foster or Adoptive parent in Virginia "A how to guide".
As a Foster parent Advocate, I am asked to explain the journey to become a foster parent in Virginia many times a day. Every Child Placing Agency is (CPA) a little different. Still, we all follow the same rules laid out by the Commonwealth of Virginia. So here is how we do it.
How to become a Foster or Adoptive parent at Extra Special Parents our agency.
Extra Special Parents (ESP) is a Child Placing Agency (CPA or a TFC) with a community-based approach designed to provide services to address children's unique needs. The children's requirements vary child by child. Still, they may have a higher level of emotional, behavioral, and/or medical conditions. Services are provided to the children by the treatment foster care parents trained, supervised, and supported by our child-placing agency staff.
At ESP, we define foster care as an agency-approved household for children and teens to provide a substitute family life experience for children who need care for a temporary period. There are different foster homes, including traditional foster homes, respite, and foster to adopt. However, foster parenting is not a lifetime commitment to a child and their family but a meaningful commitment in the child and family's lifetime.
Many families are interested in how foster children enter into care. Our answer is this: Most of the time; children enter foster care through no fault of their own. However, children are often removed from biological parents because they are unsafe, abused, neglected, or unable to care for them. There are a number of reasons and circumstances that may result in the parents being unable to meet their children's needs. Many of which include poverty, substance abuse, mental illness, homelessness, loss of a job, or lack of support from extended family and community.
They can also enter care:
As a result of a Child in Need of Services (CHINS) petition filed with the local courts.
As a result of a child's behaviors that cannot be controlled at home also CHINS (sometimes referred as Child In Need of Supervision not a legal term).
We know that deciding to become a foster family is huge choice you make. Furthermore, being a successful foster parent is hard work. It could very well be one of the most challenging experiences of your life. While at the same time, it may also be one of the most rewarding and gratifying experiences you will encounter. Foster families come from all walks of life. They are people that now realize they have the room in their home, the time in the lives, and the room in the hearts to provide for a child in need.
Initial first contact inquiries received by ESP are vetted by the Foster Parent Advocate(FPA) to assess the family's eligibility to embark upon the fostering journey. The vetting process consists of the FPA collecting information about the potential foster family (applicant) such as: directory information, information about the home, neighborhood, environment, age and gender preference of the child (ren) of interest, previous fostering experiences, and last legal matters/barrier crimes. Additionally, the FPA familiarizes applicants with the foster parent licensing process, schedules them for the pre-licensing training in addition to fielding any questions they may have concerning fostering.
The pre-licensing training includes five virtual training modules that are offered via Zoom monthly. When Covid-19 restrictions lift, in person will be an option again. The training calendars can be accessed at fosterva.org. Once applicants express a desire to be trained, the FPA schedules the applicants for training. The FPA immediately sends out the ESP Online
Application to applicants.
Once applicants have completed and submitted the online application, they are sent an invitation to access their personal online portal in Extended Reach. This confidential online portal will allow applicants to upload their family photos, complete and upload their application documents, etc. Overall, the personal portal's goal is to turn all of the red dots to green dots, which signifies they have completed their application documents.
To become a licensed foster family with ESP, some key qualifications are required:
- Must be at least 21 years old by statute but over 25 is preferred
- Complete an ESP Foster Parent application packet and all additional paperwork needed.
- Complete 40 hours of pre-licensing training
- Must have flexibility to provide adequate care for a therapeutic child
- A physical exam and negative TB screening that attests to the health of each family member
- A clear Child Abuse and Neglect Information System (CANIS) check for all adult members of the household.
- A psychological assessment indicating the mental capabilities to foster a therapeutic child (as needed)
- Income sufficient to assure the maintenance of the child. Foster parent must present three recent payroll checks and/or W-2 as verification
- Provide accessibility of the foster home to community resources
- A Criminal History and FBI background check for all adult members of the household
- Autobiography Questions completed by each applicant
- Provide 3 References
- Complete the Home Study
The Home Study serves as a comprehensive document that determines if the home is an appropriate home for a child(ren). It can also allow potential foster families to assess their readiness and ensure the home operates as a support for the child. The ESP Home Study intends to evaluate:
- Each applicant's reasons for and expectations for fostering
- Each applicant's parenting skills, understanding of types of children to be placed, prior experience with children, attitudes toward natural parents, and toward working with the agency
- The abilities of all members of the household to accept a foster child, including their experiences in sharing with and caring for children not related to them
- The social and academic adjustment of the applicant's children such as peer relationships, grade placement, and school performance
- Family relationships, including marital dynamic,
- General patterns of family life
- The applicant's relationships with extended family and friends.
In planning for the Home Study, applicants are provided with the following questions to begin preparing for the physical check:
- Does the home have an accessible basin (sink) and toilet facilities?
- Does the family house have a working telephone (cellphone does count)?
- Is there some method of ventilation in the room where the child will sleep?
- Are there adequate heating and cooling systems to ensure the inside temperature remains between 65 and 80 degrees F?
- Is there closet or drawer space or both for clothing and possessions?
- Are there separate beds for each child?
- Are beds equipped with clean, safe, and comfortable sleeping furnishings?
- Is a written plan of evacuation posted within the home?
- Is there a first aid kit with rubber gloves?
- Are all medications stored correctly in a locked cabinet?
- Are cleaning supplies and other hazardous materials stored in a locked cabinet away from food?
- Are there smoke detectors on each floor and near the sleeping areas?
- Is there a working ABC fire extinguisher in the kitchen?
- Are emergency and poison control numbers posted?
- Are there any pets in the home?
- Are there any weapons in the house?
Overall, we tell potential foster parents that the journey to become licensed foster parents can be attained in 60 – 90 days following training. This process requires commitment, diligence, and perseverance. We license families every month. So we know it can be done for you. We ask that our EXTRA SPECIAL PARENTS bring:
- The commitment and desire to change a child's life
- A strength-based approach to parenting