Frequently Asked Questions about Foster Parenting
What is Foster Care?
Foster care is the temporary placement of children and youth with families outside of their own home due to child abuse or neglect. The goal is to provide a safe, stable, nurturing environment.
Why are children placed in foster homes?
Office of Community Services is committed to child protection and family preservation. Every child is entitled to grow up in a permanent family. The primary and preferred way of achieving this goal is to provide families experiencing turmoil with services to prevent the need to place children outside their homes. When a child must be separated from the family the Office of Community Services will provide a healthy and safe environment and will make appropriate and timely efforts to provide services to reunite the family. The Office of Community Services will provide appropriate homes for children who cannot be reunited with their families.
Who can be a foster family?
Foster parenting is a serious commitment. It requires giving the gift of unconditional love to children and youth who may never have experienced love of any kind and who may not know how to accept it. It also requires the foster parent to be able to bond and attach to children quickly, but still be able to separate from those children when they are returned to their birth family or moved to a more permanent family situation.
What is a foster parent?
A foster parent is a person who cares for children/youth who are not in their custody, children and youth who have entered the foster care system. Foster parenting is an opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life during a time of crisis. Foster parents care about children and are willing and able to provide care and nurturing for the duration of the child's stay in foster care. Foster family care is a temporary arrangement until a child’s permanent plan is achieved, such as return to their own families or adoption. Foster parents are asked to complete an application, submit to home assessments and attend training. Foster families must demonstrate financial and emotional stability, responsibility and a willingness to work with the agency that supervises their home.
What is the first step in becoming a foster parent?
You are encouraged to be informed. Gather information about foster parenting, talk to other foster parents. Then contact your local social services office to sign up for their next foster parent orientation session. There are a number of ways to get information about orientation schedules:
- Contact a member of your state association (contact information on website)
- Contact your local Office of Community Services (parish pages of the telephone book)
- Contact the nearest local foster parent association (contact information on web site)
How do I become a foster parent?
Foster parent certification follows mandates set by Louisiana law, Bureau of Licensing requirements and agency policy. The following requirements must be fulfilled prior to an individual or couple being certified to provide care for children. Individuals or couples must:
- Complete MAPP/GPS pre-service training.
- Be cleared through State Police and FBI criminal records checks. (Applies to all adults living in the home.)
- Be cleared through State Central Registry for Child Abuse and Neglect.
- Obtain a physical examination, including a tuberculosis test for all family members.
- Be in agreement not to use Corporal Punishment. (i.e. any physical punishment inflicted in any manner on a child ’s body.)
- Provide at least 5 references (3 non-related).
- Allow all members of the family to be interviewed.
- Home must meet environmental, health and fire safety requirements.
- Have a care plan for each child placed in the home if individual/couple work outside the home.
- Participate in an individual home study.
- Agree to complete 15 hours of annual in-service training requirements.
What are the basic qualifications for becoming a foster parent?
- 21 years of age or older
- Single, married, or divorced
- Have adequate space for a child
- Have an income adequate for own family/to be financially stable
- Own or rent adequate housing
- Have adequate transportation
- Good physical and mental health
- Ability to work as a team with agency social workers, child’s family and other service providers
- Ability to understand and support the child’s parents
What are the requirements for becoming a foster parent?
Although foster care regulations vary from state to state, there are some universal requirements:
- Age 21 or older
- Criminal background check
- Family stability
- Character references
- Regular source of income
- Home safety inspection
- Family home study/assessment
What are the agency expectations of foster parents?
Foster parents are expected to do for a foster child the things they would do for their own child:
- Maintain confidentiality regarding the foster child and their family.
- Arrange and take child to medical and dental appointments.
- Register the child in school.
- Participate in school meetings and events.
- Take the child to appointments and extracurricular activities.
- Inform the child’s worker of events occurring with the child.
- Purchase clothing with allotted board payment.
- Participate as a team member with agency staff, attend agency meetings, court hearings.
- Support the child’s parents in their effort to have the child returned to their care.
Will I have to work with the child's parent?
Yes. You may have to work with the child’s birth parent. The Office of Community Services Foster Parent Program is comprised of a team of persons working together to do what is in the best interest of children. Foster Parents are critical members of that team. The goal for a child placed in the Office of Community Services’ custody is to achieve safety and permanency as soon as possible, which includes working with the child’s parents towards reunification.
Will I be paid to be a foster parent?
Monthly board payments are made to certified foster parents to reimburse for the cost of caring for a child. Board payments are to help meet the daily needs of the child for shelter, food, clothing, allowance and incidental expenses. Board payments are determined by the child’s age. The child’s health and dental needs are covered by Medicaid.
Will I get to choose the foster child for my home?
Unfortunately, no. The Office of Community Services does its best to match a foster child with a foster family who can best meet the child’s needs. Some foster parents prefer to work with teenage children, while others do better with young children. You, however, will be able to specify the age and gender of the child you prefer.
Can I choose the age of the foster child?
Yes. However, be aware that there are many children needing out of home care and that through experience and training, you may find that you are most effective in caring for a specific age group or a range of ages. Families for children and youth between the ages of 11 and 16, sibling groups and teen moms are currently in the greatest need.
How long will the foster children remain in my home?
The length of time that a child stays in a foster home varies according to the plans for reunification with their biological family. Children may be in foster care for a few days or a few months. The length of stay is influenced by the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997. The goal is to seek a permanent placement for the child as quickly as possible, be it reunification with the birth parents, kinship care, or adoption. If the child cannot be reunited with their biological family, the child will be placed in a permanent home. Placement is for as long as it takes to achieve a permanent placement for the child, whether the plan be for reunification with the child's family, placement with relatives, or adoption.
I am a single person. Can I become a foster parent?
Yes. Single persons and married couples are generally accepted as foster parents. Some states do not license/certify homes in which unmarried adults are living together unless they are relatives.
What type of support do foster parents receive?
Each family or child is assigned a case manager who is responsible for providing support to each family. Supportive services (respite care, training, crisis lines, etc.) are provided by the licensing agency. Support is also available through state and local associations.
What about medical insurance for foster children?
Foster children are eligible for Medicaid cards which cover medical, dental and counseling services.
As a foster parent, can I work outside the home?
Yes. However, if the foster child requires day care, the foster parent often is responsible for that expense. Ask the agency about day care when you call to inquire about becoming a foster parent.
Who pays for the foster child's clothing?
Foster parents receive a reimbursement which is intended to cover the cost of food and clothing. Some states provide a clothing voucher at the time of the child's first placement. Others provide clothing vouchers at the beginning of each school year.
Do I have to own my own home?
No, however you do have to have space for a foster child, according to the requirements of your state.
Do foster children have to have their own bedroom?
In most cases, foster children can share a bedroom with another child of the same sex.
Can I adopt a foster child in my home?
The goal is to reunify a child with his/her family. In the event that the child cannot return home or be placed with other relatives, foster parents have first consideration as adoptive parents.
Many families are interested in both fostering and adopting. They agree with the agency that the needs of the child come first. In most cases, this means that they help prepare children for reunification with their birth family or toward a relative or kinship placement. When termination of parental rights is in the child’s best interest and adoption is the child’s plan, then foster parents who have cared for the child will be given the opportunity to apply for adoption.
Can I take the foster child on vacation with me?
With permission of the child's social worker.
Where can I get more information?
Foster Care and Adoption Home Development staff, who train and certify foster and adoptive parents, are located in Office of Community Services Regional Offices.