Office of Children and Family Services

Become a Foster Parent

Overview

(En Español)

Contents

Why are children placed in foster care?

Children are placed in foster care either by court order (involuntary placement) or because their parents are willing to have others care for them temporarily outside the home (voluntary placement).

An involuntary placement occurs when a child has been either abused or neglected, or may be at risk of abuse or neglect, by parents or someone else in the household, or because a court has determined that the child is a person in need of supervision or a juvenile delinquent. Upon the court’s decision, the child is removed from the home and a determination is made on the length of placement.

A voluntary placement occurs when parents who are experiencing serious medical, emotional, or financial difficulties are unable to appropriately care for their children and agree to sign a voluntary placement agreement. The placement agreement lists the parents’ and the agency’s responsibilities during the child’s placement. Voluntary placements are not voluntary surrenders for adoption (where the parents would permanently give up their parental rights and transfer custody and guardianship to an authorized agency).

What is the role of a foster parent?

As a foster parent, you are responsible for the following:

  • Providing temporary care for children, giving them a safe, stable, and nurturing environment.
  • Cooperating with the caseworker and the child’s parents in carrying out a family reunification or permanency plan.
  • Understanding and assist with the needs and goals of family visits.
  • Helping the child cope with home separation.
  • Providing guidance, discipline, good examples, and positive experiences.
  • Encouraging and supervising school attendance, participating in teacher conferences, and keeping the child’s caseworker informed about any special educational needs.
  • Working with the agency in arranging for the child’s regular and/or special medical and dental care.
  • Working with the child on creating a Life Book--a combined storybook, diary, and scrapbook--that can help children understand their past experiences, so they can feel better about themselves and be better prepared for the future.
  • Informing the caseworker promptly about any problems or concerns, so needs can be met through available services.

What is a permanency plan?

As a foster parent, you are a continuing presence in the child’s life. You are familiar with their personality and development. Therefore, as you work closely with the caseworker/agency, you can contribute valuable information about the child, participate in meetings about the child, and communicate with the parents. Foster parents are often the main source of information about how a child is adjusting to home separation, interacting with peers, and performing in school.

You are a primary source of support for the child. When you have a positive, healthy relationship with your foster children, you help build their trust in adults. This prepares them for possible changes in their living situation, which might be necessary to achieve their permanency goal. For example, they may return home or be adopted. As you continue to nurture the child, you are helping to plan for his or her permanency.

Foster parents can help plan for permanency through parent-child visits, caseworker contact, service plan reviews, court hearings, and discharge activities. For more information on these topics, please contact your local department of social services.

What rights do foster parents have?

Foster parents have the right to

  • accept or reject a child for placement in their foster home;
  • define and limit the number of children that can be placed in their foster home, within legal capacity;
  • receive information on each child who is to be placed in their foster home;
  • expect regular visits from the child’s caseworker to exchange information, plan, and discuss any concerns about the child;
  • participate in regular conferences in their foster home to discuss the child’s permanency plan every 90 days or less, as required;
  • receive notice of, and participate in, service plan reviews and Family Court permanency hearings on a child placed in their home;
  • receive training on meeting the needs of children in care; and
  • have their personal privacy respected.

What kind of support do foster parents receive?

As a foster parent, you are part of a team working together for the sake of the family. Generally, the team consists of the foster parents, the birth parents, the child, the caseworker, and the law guardian. It may also include service providers, health care providers, and other family members. Foster parents are never alone in caring for the child and are met with a comprehensive support system.

When children observe their parents, foster parents, and caseworker working together toward their best interest, their outlook on their situation may improve and the transition to permanency may be smoother.

Information about financial support for a foster child is also available in the requirements section of this site.

Information about financial support is also available on the foster care requirements page.

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