We often hear and read about adoption, but fostering has garnered less attention. In fact, most people don’t even really understand what being a foster parent means. In short, a foster parent is a person who acts as a guardian for a child in place of the child’s natural parents, but without legally adopting that child. Fostering can sometimes turn into adoption or it can be a short term arrangement. Foster children can be as young as toddler age or as old as college-age. How long a child stays in the foster system depends on many factors. 55% of foster children are waiting to be reunited with their parents. That said, most commonly a child is fostered for one to two years.
Similar to adoption, the process of becoming a foster parent can feel overwhelming, but it’s considerably less arduous and usually only takes a few months. It helps to break it down into small steps. Read on for a look at the first steps to fostering a child.
- Contact your state’s Department of Homeless Services as each state has different residency, employment and application requirements for individuals and families hoping to foster.
- Join social media groups. These are not only hugely beneficial for practical information, but for emotional support.
- Select an agency and complete their application. This is where those social media channels can come in handy. You’ll want to find an agency you’re comfortable with and are aligned with as far as your timeline to fostering. Once you’ve settled on an agency sign up for orientation/training meetings.
- The orientation meetings usually last between four and ten weeks. They’re great for not only learning about the fostering system and preparing to integrate a child into your family, but for meeting other families who are in your same boat.
- Be prepared for a lot of paperwork as well as background checks. Reach out to friends, family and co-workers for recommendation letters.
- Prepare your home for home inspections and interviews. Again this is where talking to your agency and other families in the system will be beneficial as you’ll want to make sure you’re aware of all the expectations and requirements.
After these steps you’ll hopefully be matched very soon with a child looking for a loving home.