What is foster care?

Foster care is the temporary placement of children and youth with families outside of their own home due to abuse, neglect or other circumstances. The goal of foster care is to provide all children with a safe, stable, nurturing environment during a time of crisis until they can be reunified with their parents or extended family.

What is a foster parent?

A foster parent is a trained and licensed adult who cares for children in the foster care system in their own homes. This provides children a safe and nurturing environment until a permanency plan can be achieved, such as reunification with their biological families or adoption.

Foster parents are asked to complete an application, attend training and submit to a home study before being licensed and allowed to have foster children in their homes.

What are the basic steps to becoming a foster parent?

  1. Contact us to sign up for a free orientation session that will explain what is needed to become a foster parent and answer your questions.
  2. Get trained at no cost to you. You will learn about children in foster care and the trauma they are going through. You will also learn about working successfully with biological parents, different childhood developmental stages and behaviors, and much more.
  3. Get licensed to ensure that you, your family and your home are prepared and safe.
  4. Begin being a foster parent and providing a child with a second chance!

What are the financial requirements to foster?

You must have adequate income to meet your own family’s needs before being a foster parent. During the home study process, you will be asked to show proof of income and financial stability. You may live in a home or apartment that you either rent or own.

Will I be paid to be a foster parent?

Foster parents are given monthly stipends called “board checks” for the care they provide. However, the money you will receive is not income. These stipends are to help you meet the daily needs of your foster children for their food, clothing, shelter and incidental expenses. Board rates are determined by the child’s age or level of care, and function as a reimbursement.  They will not cover all the expenses incurred by foster parents. The child’s health and dental needs are covered by Medicaid.

What are the physical and emotional requirements for being a foster parent?

Being a foster parent can be demanding, so you must be healthy and emotionally stable. While the exact procedure may vary by state, typically you will be asked to complete a physical exam and possibly a tuberculosis (TB) test, or provide medical clearance to help establish that you are healthy enough to take on the responsibility of fostering.

Are there any restrictions based on age, ethnicity, marital status or sexual orientation?

Applicants must be at least 21 years of age, but there are no restrictions as to ethnicity, marital status, or sexual orientation.

How much room do I need in my home?

You must have enough bedroom space for each foster child placed in your home. They must have a bed of their own and cannot share a bed nor sleep on a cot or trundle bed. A foster child may not share a bedroom with the foster parent unless they are under the age of one and sleep in a crib. An adult cannot move out of their bedroom and sleep on the couch to make room.

In many cases a foster child can share a bedroom with your child or another foster child of the same gender. Ask your local caseworker on the specific guidelines for your state.

Does my home need to pass an inspection?

It is important that children live in a safe and clean environment. During the home study process, a health inspection will be conducted in your home to ensure your home is free of potential dangers and risks. You must have working smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, and if you have pets they must be current with vaccinations and not present a danger to children in your home.

What is a home study?

A home study, also known as a home assessment, is a process that results in a document about you, your family, strengths, characteristics and challenges. A home study begins with an interview of you and your family at your home. Your caseworker will also ask for additional information, such as background screenings and references. The home study process concludes with a written report that your caseworker creates about you and your family.

What are the screening requirements?

Thorough background screenings are conducted on all prospective foster families, including abuse registry, driving record and local and federal criminal clearances (fingerprinting). Background screenings and child abuse clearances are required for all household members at no charge to the applicants.

Can I choose the age and sex of the foster child?

Yes, as part of the application and home study you will identify the age range and sex of children that you believe would be most comfortable with your family.

How long will the foster children remain in my home?

The length of time that a child stays in a foster home varies according to their permanency plans. Children may be in foster care for a few days, a few months, or even longer depending on the situation. It is important that foster parents are patient and flexible, as situations change on a regular basis.

Will I have to work with the child's parent?

The goal for a child placed in the foster care system is to achieve safety and permanency as soon as possible, which often includes family reunification. Eckerd Connects will coordinate a team of professionals working together to do what is in the best interest of children. Foster parents are critical members of that team because they can provide unique insights into the child and his or her well-being.

As a foster parent, you will be trained to work in partnership with agency staff to assist the biological parents in improving their ability to protect their children. You will also learn how to best respect the child’s ties to his or her biological family and assist the child in visitation and other forms of communication with the family.

What are the agency expectations of foster parents?

Foster parents do everything a biological parent is expected to do and more, which is outlined below:

  • Maintain confidentiality regarding the foster child and their family.
  • Arrange and take child to medical and dental appointments.
  • Register the child in school and participate in school meetings and events.
  • Register a child for extracurricular activities, encourage their strengths and provide opportunities for interests and skills.
  • Inform the child’s caseworker of events occurring with the child.
  • Participate as a team member with agency staff, including attending court hearings.
  • When appropriate and safe, assist the child in visitation and other forms of contact with the biological family.
  • Respect the child’s religion, culture, and ethnicity.

What type of support do foster parents receive?

Eckerd Connects is dedicated to providing the support and training needed for you to be successful. Each child is assigned a case manager who is responsible for providing support to each family. Supportive services (respite care, training, crisis lines, etc.) are also provided.

Furthermore, each foster family is assigned a licensing specialist or program manager to support them in navigating the system of care. Eckerd Connects can also connect you to additional support, such as other foster parents who can serve as mentors, social services, charities, and foster parent associations.

As a foster parent, can I work outside the home?

Yes, however if the foster child requires day care, the foster parent often is responsible for at least part of that expense. Ask about day care options and voucher programs during your foster parent training.

Who pays for the foster child's clothing?

Foster parents receive a reimbursement called a “board check” which is intended to assist in covering the cost of food and clothing. Some states also provide a clothing voucher at the time of the child’s first placement or the beginning of each school year.

What about medical insurance for foster children?

Foster children receive Medicaid cards which cover medical, dental and counseling services.

Once I am certified, how long will it take to get a foster child placed in my home?

The timing of placements depends on the situation of the foster children in the foster system. We match children to available homes based on the child’s needs, your preferences and the criteria of the placing caseworker. Placements may be made within a couple days of being licensed or it can take up to several months.

How many foster children can I take?

The number of children that foster parents can care for at one time varies from state to state. Check with your caseworker to learn more about the rules governing your state.

Can the foster child go to the school my children attend?

This depends on the rules in your state and the specific circumstances of the child. However, foster parents are asked to try to maintain the child in their school of origin when possible or until a suitable break in the school year allows for a smooth transition.

Can I take the foster child on vacation with me?

Yes, you are encouraged to take foster children on vacation with you in order to promote normal, happy childhood experiences. If you are crossing state lines, court permission is required. The child’s caseworker should always be notified of the child’s location in advance.

Can I adopt a foster child in my home?

Our goal is to reunify children with their families, however in the event that the child cannot return home or be placed with other relatives, foster parents can be considered potential adoptive parents.

Where can I get more information?

Visit our Get Started page to contact Eckerd Connects and attend a free foster parent orientation.