Become a Foster Parent
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What is foster care?
Foster care is the temporary placement of children outside of their own homes. Foster care occurs because of abuse, neglect, dependency or other family problems. When possible, the Department of Children and Family Services and other agencies work with families to reunite them. When that’s not possible, measures are taken to identify adoption resources, prepare adolescents for independent living, or develop other permanency options.
What kinds of children most need foster homes the most?
Many kinds of children will need foster homes. The children who currently need homes the most are:
- African-American and Hispanic children
- Teenage mothers and their babies
- Children with special medical needs
- Brothers and sisters who need to stay together
- Hispanic children
- Children born to mothers with drug addiction and HIV/AIDS during pregnancy
Can we select the child we want?
You can express a preference on the age, race, and sex of the child that you think would best fit in with your family. You do not have to accept a child placement you do not want.
Can single foster persons care for foster children?
How many foster children can we take?
That depends on factors such as your ability, your enthusiasm, how many children you have of your own, and how much room you have in your home. The maximum number, including your own children, is set out by state foster care agency’s licensing standards.
Do all foster children have problems?
Separation from parents is often a traumatic and adverse childhood experience. This loss often leads to an array of challenging emotions and behaviors. Fear, anger, suspicion, distrust, confusion, and acting out are common, but often treatable, and may lessen as children bond with the foster parent.
What kind of support will we receive?
Foster parents in “regular” foster care programs receive a monthly reimbursement stipend to cover the child’s food, clothing, and personal allowance. The amount of the reimbursement is based on the child’s special needs. You must have sufficient income apart from the foster care stipend.
Each foster child gets a medical card from the state that guarantees payment for all necessary medical care and preventive medicine. You will be given a number to call to get help in selecting a physician for a child placed with you. The medical card is also accepted by many hospitals and for approved prescriptions. You should not pay any medical bill directly.
Foster children go to regular public schools unless they need special education, for which the state can pay. Private or parochial school tuition cannot be paid by the State. Foster children may attend private or parochial schools, but only if the tuition is paid by some other source.
The Progressive Life Center and your child’s caseworker are responsible for supporting your family on a daily basis. We provide 24-hour support, seven days a week. We have developed internal supports, which include foster parent support groups, after-hours telephone numbers, and community resources.
Support from DCFS
The Department of Children and Family Services provides overall support to licensed private child welfare agencies with foster care programs, while maintaining its own foster care program. DCFS also directly provides universal foster care information and impartial advocacy for all foster families statewide.
How do we become foster parents?
We will be happy to schedule an intake/orientation meeting as the first step in the process. We can help you decide if foster care is a good plan for your family. The representative will also give you various forms to complete including an application, Child Protective Clearance Form for each adult in the home and medical forms for each member of your family. Because the law requires that a criminal background check is run on all applicants, you will be fingerprinted. In addition, references you provide will be contacted. While these checks are being run, you will attend training classes to help prepare you for your future role.
What types of foster parents are there?
Most foster parents begin to care for children whose goal is to be reunited with their birth parents or other family members as soon as possible. Sometimes, however, the children we serve have suffered significant trauma and require more structured care. We train our foster families and provide them with the necessary tools to offer therapeutic foster care to these children. Foster parents who either already have necessary skills, or are willing to be trained to meet the special needs of these foster children, may become part of a “specialized” or “treatment” foster care program providing intensive services. These foster families also receive extra payments.
How long does it take to get a foster child?
The licensing and training process can take from two to four months depending on the potential foster parent and their compliance with the licensing process. When being licensed, children can then be placed with you.
How will our children react to foster children?
If you’ve prepared them well for the coming of a foster child and they understand the temporary nature of foster care, there should be few problems. It’s not unusual for your children to be a bit jealous at first — just as they might be jealous of a new baby in the family.
Do foster children need individual bedrooms?
No. A foster child can share a room with your children or other foster children of the same sex. The child must have a bed of his or her own. A foster child may not share a bedroom with an adult — except for brief periods due to the child’s illness or another need for attention.
Can we take our foster child on vacation with us?
In most cases, yes. But if it involves out-of-state travel, you must call your child’s caseworker in advance for approval.
Can our foster children go to church with us?
Yes. Usually, you will get children whose religious background is similar to your own. But if a foster child is of a different faith, he or she must be allowed to attend worship in that faith.
Does a child’s birth parents visit him or her?
PLC works to maintain contact between a child and his biological family. In most cases, visits between parents and children are an essential part of the efforts to reunite families. The child’s caseworker has the primary responsibility for planning visits and arranging supervision if required. The caseworker will talk with you and the child’s parents to work out the time and location of the visits.
Can we ever adopt a foster child?
The first goal is to return foster children to their biological families when that is possible. However, if a foster child who has been in your home for some time becomes available for adoption, you can discuss your interest in adopting him or her with the caseworker. At that time, you would have to meet all of the regular requirements for becoming an adoptive parent.
Won’t it be hard on us when the foster child returns home or is adopted?
Yes. That is, in fact, the hardest part of being a foster parent. You will certainly feel sad for a time. It’s only natural — just as it’s natural for your foster daughter or son to want a family of his or her own. But there will always be new foster children who will need your care and affection.