Foster parents across the country provide the vital role of caring for children who are dependents of the state. Providing a good home environment helps foster children to grow and develop after the abuse, neglect, or loss they may have suffered. However, not everyone can become a foster parent. If you’re considering it, you'll want to get up to speed on the various foster parent requirements, whether it's state law or screening criteria.
The following information covers the main requirements for becoming a foster parent, although the specifics will vary by state and other variables.
General Foster Parent Requirements
The laws regarding qualifications to become a foster parent vary in each state based on a number of factors, including the past experience of the state with regard to foster care. Generally speaking, state laws require that people who want to become foster parents:
Foster parents can usually work outside the home. However, this could mean the foster child requires day care or after school activities beyond what’s provided for free by the public school system. If so, the foster parent is typically responsible for that expense. Although generally, there are a number of programs foster children are eligible for low or no cost.
Foster families usually don’t need to make a set minimum income nor own a large home. Foster children can usually share a bedroom with another child of the same sex and opposite sex if under a certain age, such as five years in California. Foster children under certain ages, such as under two years old in California, can stay in a crib in the same room as the foster parents.
Both single persons and married couples are generally accepted as foster parents. However, some states don’t certify homes in which unmarried adults are living together unless they’re related. Individual agencies may discriminate against same-sex couples and cohabitating heterosexual couples, although this is a developing area of law and may change along with developments in same-sex marriage and benefits laws.
Other Foster Parent Requirements and Considerations
In addition, the agencies who coordinate foster parents also look at other characteristics in screening potential foster parents, including:
The length of time a child may remain in foster care varies. The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 requires states to seek a permanent placement for the child as quickly as possible, be it reunification with the birth parents, kinship care, or adoption. Foster parents can adopt their foster children. However, foster parents have to be open to the possibility that a child they hope to adopt is ultimately returned to his or her birth family.
Related Resources for Foster Parents
Learn More About Foster Parent Requirements From an Attorney
Taking on the role of foster parent may just be the turning point in a young child's life. It may not be an easy decision, especially if you have other children in your home, but having a warm family environment can make a big difference in another child's life. As you start down this road, it's important to have the advice and input of an experienced family law attorney along the way. Speak with a family law attorney today to find out more about foster parent requirements and to discuss your specific situation.