It’s astonishing to know more than 400,000 kids are currently in our country’s foster care system and yet only about half as many foster parents are available to care for them! We need many more caring foster parents to be a foothold of stability in times of so much uncertainty for these kids. Many of these kids will eventually go home to their birth families, and typically one in four is eligible for adoption. In either outcome, uncertainty is the hazy fog swirlng around their lives as they await their future.
America’s Kids Belong recently launched a series of nationwide, live webinar panel discussions on relevant topics in and around foster care. On August 31, AKB hosted: “Fostering: From Licensing to Your First Placement.”
If you are ready to explore foster parenting, but you just need some specifics to take your next step, or if you are curious about what it takes to foster, watch this panel and review the checklist of key steps in the licensing process that they talk through. (Licensing requirements and timelines vary by state, but the list below is typical .)
Getting Licensed As A Foster Parent
- Reach out to interview foster care licensing agencies from the state or private.
- Attend orientations and pick the agency that feels like the best fit.
- Turn in application.
- Complete foster parent classes
- Prepare for your home study process which typically involves:
- Gathering relevant documents
- Submitting background checks
- Requesting reference letters
- Completing medicals
- Providing financial information
- Completing home safety inspection
- Scheduling and interview
- Awaiting written home study
- Find your community to support you.
- Resource yourself to best prepare.
- Exercise patient (and polite) perseverance as you keep in touch with child welfare regarding your approval status and placement timing.
- Before taking a placement, take very seriously any personal trauma that has been unhealed in you, because you likely will be triggered in ways you may not anticipate.
- Wait expectantly for a placement.
Tips To Prepare For Your First Placement
Panelists also offered tips from personal experience for your first placement and how to gear up personally and as a family. And they gave some tips for helping each new placement adjust in your home. These tips come from frontline experts with years of experience in child welfare, former foster parents, and a former foster youth.
- Have your own support systems in place. Learn about WRAP support.
- Know what you can say “yes” to and what you need to say “no” to for the sake of stability for that child.
- When a child welfare worker calls with a potential placement: Ask questions, know that uncertainty and fear of all the unknowns are what that child carries into your home.
- When the child arrives, be ready to inquire about them, but be patient to let them open up as they are ready, and truly listen to let them know they are heard.
- Feeling overwhelmed? Know you have a lot to learn and being nervous is okay. The child is nervous too and they are learning about you!
- When kids arrive ask them the things that make them feel good like familiar foods, music, shoes, games, and activities. This promotes felt safety and will help settle them in this transition.
- For children with food insecurity issues, keep a few snacks out for whenever they want.
- For older kids… post values around your home to help gradually introduce kids to your family. Be flexible as they learn them. Rules that are rigid do not feel safe.
- Be willing to adapt how you normally parent
- Pay attention to the tone in your home and make adjustments during chaotic times. Attune to their reaction so you can create connection and safety.
- Build in lots of connected play and lighthearted times. Whether with young kids or teens, let them have ownership on the things you choose to do.
- And laugh a lot together. It is healing.
What a joyful and a beautiful thing it is to bring kids into the home who need your patient perseverance with the licensing process. The need is so great. and the future impact of your life with theirs can change the trajectory of the child’s life…and yours as well!
Not everyone is called or able to be a foster parent; however, there are other great ways to show up for kids in foster care and the families caring for them. Here are some great resources for your faith community or businesses.
We need existing foster parents to become stronger and last longer. You can help by: joining or starting a WRAP Team to wrap around these kids and families and help them thrive.