There are close to 500,000 children in foster care in the U.S. If you can provide a stable and nurturing environment, it will be easy for you to become a foster parent.
Yes, fostering has its trying times, but caring for another person can be life-changing for both the parent and the child.
Being a newcomer shouldn’t be a problem for fostering.
You have the option of being a single foster parent, provided you don’t live with family in the U.S. If you do live with family, the foster procedure will go more smoothly if an adult in your family has permanent U.S. residence (green card) or is a U.S. citizen.
Fostering Vs. Adoption
Fostering is not the same as adoption. Adoption is a permanent arrangement in which you absorb a new member into your family. Fostering is caring for a child temporarily. It’s not as legally binding as adoption, but you do care for a child for an extended period until the child can return to his or her biological parents, or other long-term arrangements are made.
It’s a good option for people who don’t want the permanence of adoption.
Which is better? Only you can make this decision for yourself, depending on your circumstances. Take some time to review both options.
The U.S. does not have a centralized government structure in regards to fostering. This is the reason why foster rules and requirements tend to vary by state.
Check with your local foster agency for the local rules or requirements for fostering.
If you are not ready to adopt yet, fostering can help you test the waters. It will serve as a good bonding period and help you come to a decision. This isn’t allowed in Florida, as fostering is taken as a nod towards a guaranteed future adoption.
If you remain indecisive, visit your local foster care. They can help you come to a decision and give you reliable advice.
Prerequisites to Consider Before Fostering
It may only be temporary, but you will care for a child, and that is no easy task. Your local foster care agency will need you to fulfill certain criteria before they place a child in your care.
- Be at least 21 years of age. This age minimum might be higher for private foster agencies.
- Financial stability without the stipend: Do you have a steady source of income? If not, reach a point of financial stability before you consider fostering.
- One adult who speaks English in the family.
- No criminal record or history of child abuse.
- Provide evidence that you will be able to provide a safe space for the child.
The stipend for fostering is not an adequate single source of income. Yes, you get that to spend on your foster child, but this amount is sufficient enough only for the child’s needs and not meant to provide for the entire household.
Aside from meeting these restrictions, you will need to attend orientation and undergo training. You will have your home inspected to ascertain if it’s child safe and has ample amenities for them.
There are more restrictions for older kids when it comes to sharing a room or a bed.
Your foster agency may also ask you to provide references from your close ones or workplace.
Other Kinds of Foster Parenting
While the norm is to provide full-time care to a child, there are other kinds of fostering too:
- Kinship Care: It’s quite common to drop your child off with their grandparents or extended family. Foster care enables the same through a legal arrangement for your child.
- Emergency Care: You agree to be available around the clock for short-term fostering.
- Respite Care: It can be taxing to take care of children, especially those with special needs. Respite care exists to give you temporary relief from caring for your foster child.
- Therapeutic Care: Youth and children who need special emotional care. As a therapeutic foster parent, you will receive special training to respond to the needs of these children.
- Adoption: If the child placed in your care was separated from their parents, chances of the child returning to his or her parents are high. As for orphans, fostering can serve as a great bonding period before you decide to adopt them.
What Does the Procedure Look Like?
Reach out to your local foster care to learn about the fostering procedure. The whole foster care system is state-run, so they can help you out with any issues or concerns you might have.
We can give you a rough outline of the fostering process, as it varies by state:
- Begin the application process and attend the orientation.
- Attend parent training classes.
- Complete the application paperwork.
- Meet your caseworker. Be open with them. Establishing a good relationship with them will help them understand you better.
- Home study (depends on state).
- Wait for recommendations from your caseworker. It might take several months for your application to get approved and to match you with a child.
- Welcome your foster child into their new home.
The Costs of Fostering
We can’t generalize here, so we’re taking up California as an example to make it easier for you to understand.
Once you attend the orientation and receive training for foster care, you are ready to foster.
The expenses start with the application process itself. If you’re the sole applicant, you need to order criminal record clearances. This can go up to as many as three per applicant.
If there are other adults in your family, they need to clear first aid and CPR certification. They also need to pay for a separate application form and material fees. The costs amount to a couple of hundred dollars.
If your home is not childproofed, you will incur personal expenses there, too. Cover sharp edges, fence your pool, and having a working smoke detector are examples of needed expenses required for fostering a child.
If you have a habit of barely checking your phone, adopt the habit of being readily accessible before fostering.
Stipends in California range between $600 and $800 per month. The child will already have health insurance.
The stipend given is higher for emergency (therapeutic) cases. This will depend on the child and his or her emotional needs, and the amount will be set by your social worker. Clothing allowances are also given each year.
Can I Foster an Adult?
Yes, you can. It falls under the Adult Foster Care section. Under this, you can also foster an elderly person.
But before you go ahead, is the person willing to accept it? Consider this, because there is an option for assisted living. For most, it becomes a matter of dignity, and if they prefer assisted living, that might end up being the preferred route for care.
Do check out forums and groups online—including Facebook, Reddit, and Wikihow—for shared experiences from foster parents. They can help you alleviate most of your queries and doubts regarding foster care.
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