Parents Ask – May 2016
Q: I’m interested in becoming a foster parent. What do I need to do and how long does it take? Amy – Chandler
A: In Arizona, the number of children in foster care has grown to nearly 18,000. The need for foster parents who are willing to open up their homes and provide love, stability and support to these children has never been greater.
Many of the children entering into the foster care system are not able to immediately stay with a foster family simply because there are not enough foster homes to fill the need. Children will often spend an extended time in emergency shelters or group homes as they wait for a space in a foster home to become available.
To become a foster parent in Arizona, there are specific state requirements and steps. Some of the main ones include (but are not limited to):
- Applicants must be 21 or older for foster care and 18 or older to adopt.
- All members of the household must be in agreement to pursue foster care and/or adoption.
- Anyone living in the home who is 18 or older must pass a background check and receive a Level 1 fingerprint card.
- Your home will be inspected and must pass according to OLCR guidelines.
- All applicants must attend a minimum 30 hours of pre-service training. There is also additional training for therapeutic foster care.
- You must have space in your home (a bed for each foster child and space for their personal items).
The time it takes to complete these steps and meet these qualifications depends on each potential foster parent’s situation. To assist you in this process, foster care licensing agencies are available. Many agencies (both nonprofit and for-profit) recruit, train, license and provide ongoing services to individuals and families wanting to become licensed foster parents.
Foster parents do not have to be interested in adoption when they start the process of fostering, but many families come to that decision when a child in their home becomes legally free for adoption. If a family is interested in adoption from the beginning, the agency will discuss the process and different options for the family.
Another hurdle many potential foster families consider is that it can be very difficult emotionally when you are a foster parent. As an agency, we want our foster parents to incorporate the children into their lives in every way. So it stands to reason that when a family has been caring and advocating for a child, it is difficult when the child leaves. It really depends on the individual or family and how they manage those transitions but agencies are always there to help with continued education and guidance.
In addition, one misconception is that children who are in need of foster care are sometimes labeled “bad kids” when that is generally not true. These children have experienced trauma in their home environment and are again traumatized when they are removed and placed with stranger or in a group home with several other children. These children need a chance to learn how to be part of a family, learn how to be a kid, and heal from their trauma.
P.S.: If you find that becoming a foster parent is not an option for you at this time, consider becoming a mentor to a foster child, become a CASA volunteer, or make a donation to a foster care agency (cash and in-kind donations to nonprofits are tax deductible), or advocate for children in foster care. It all makes a difference!
Shelley Moore, MA, is the program manager for HRSS Foster Care Services at Devereux Arizona.