Q? Who can be a foster parent?
A: Almost anyone can foster!
You can be…single or married, working parents, retired, a stay at home parent, already parenting or have never parented.
You don’t have to be…rich, just need enough income to be able to care for the family you have now; A homeowner, simply have a safe home/apartment with enough room for another child; A stay at home parent, just flexible enough with work to meet the child’s needs.
Q? Who are the children in the foster care system?
A: Children placed in the foster care system were removed from their families due to abuse, neglect or abandonment. The child might live temporarily with a member of their extended family, a foster family or in a group home while social workers try to help the birth family. Typically, the goal for a child is to work with the foster home to reunify the child with their biological family.
If the birth family’s problems can’t be resolved, the agency that has custody of the child goes to court to legally terminate parental rights. At this point, social workers try to find a safe and loving adoptive family for the child. Ages range from infancy to early adulthood, although the average age is eight. Virtually every race, ethnic group and socio-economic category is represented. Some children are in foster care alone and others are in foster care with siblings. Those most in need of homes would be children over the age of 10, children with special needs, and large sibling groups (3 or more).
Many foster children have been emotionally, physically, and sexually abused. As a result, they may have emotional, behavioral, mental or physical problems. Many are insecure, frightened, confused, and often angry about what is happening to them. Based on their past and the disruption in their lives, these children sometimes present challenging behaviors.
Q: Does it cost a lot of money to be a foster parent?
A: Not at all! Foster parents receive monthly compensation per child as well as supplemental support such as:
• Coverage for medical and dental expenses.
• Needed items like clothing, hygiene, school supplies, and more.
• Specialized training from experienced staff.
Q? What is the difference between foster care and adoption?
A: Foster care is the temporary care of a child whose goal is to return to their biological parent(s). Foster parents must be willing to support foster children’s ongoing contact with their biological parents and cooperate with the agency’s efforts to reunite them with their families. The foster parent’s direct involvement with the birth family is determined on an individual basis.
If reunification with their families is not possible, the foster parent is given the choice to proceed to adoption, or otherwise prepare the child for their permanent home through adoption with another family’s help.
Q? How do I become a foster parent?
A: The application/certification process takes about a 3-4 months to complete. There is a 10 session/36 hour training program which covers the basic topics you will need to know to foster a child. CPR/First Aid certification is required. There is also paperwork, background checks and references to be completed. Moreover, a home visit is scheduled where a St. Joe’s staff member will review the health and safety issues in the home and answer any questions the family might have. A home study is written that assesses the potential foster family and summarizes their strengths, skills, attitudes and other qualifications that bear on the challenges of foster parenting.
Q? How long will it be before a child is placed with me?
A: After your home has been certified, the amount of time it takes to place a child with you is dependent on several factors. It will be dependent on the range of ages, behaviors and special circumstances you will consider. The more open you are to age range, number of children and behavior issues, the more quickly a child can be placed with you. Conversely, if you are very specific and narrow in these ranges, it may take longer to find a child who matches your criteria.
Q? Who decides what children are placed in my home?
A: It is a mutual decision between the agency and you. Having a child come live with you is a big commitment, so finding the right match is crucial. Children are placed in foster homes by matching their needs with foster parents’ or families’ situations. You will never be forced to accept a foster child you are not prepared to help. You select the level of needs and age group of the children you would like to foster.
In addition, much support is offered to you and your family. St. Joe’s Foster Care Specialists are available 24/7 to help you handle any questions or deal with escalated situations. Also, you and your child will have a therapist who will work with you to help address any issues of loss, anger and behavior management. Additionally, you are encouraged to attend support groups where you can connect with and get help from other foster parents.
Q? What is required of me as a foster parent?
A: In addition to providing a secure and nurturing environment for the child or children placed in your home, you will be expected to function as a member of the child’s team and advocate for the child’s needs. There will be documentation that you will be required to keep on a daily basis. You will need to get further specialized training of at least 24 hours per year (provided free by our agency). You will need to renew your CPR/First Aid certification as it comes due. You will need to remain calm, patient, and loving even when the child expresses their anger or confusion in less than socially acceptable ways. Foster Parents need to be able to support the goal of reunification with the birth family until and unless it is changed to adoption.
Q? Do all foster children have special needs?
A: Many of them do because of the trauma they have experienced. Some may struggle with intellectual and/or academic delays. Many are frightened and confused at the sudden separation from their parents. Some are angry. Others may think they are being sent to a foster home as punishment for something they did and think of themselves as a “bad” kid. However, these problems gradually lessen as the foster child comes to trust their foster parent and new home environment.
Q? Can foster parents adopt children in foster care?
The first goal is to return foster children to their birth families, whenever that is possible. However, sometimes it is not possible for children to return home and no relatives can be found to provide appropriate care. If the permanent plan for the child becomes adoption and the child has been living in your home, you will be given the first opportunity to consider becoming the adoptive parent. Since our agency dually approves all homes for Foster Care and Adoption, you will already have met all the regular requirements for becoming an adoptive parent.
Q? Won’t it be hard on us when the foster child returns home or is adopted?
A: Yes. That is the hardest part about being a foster parent.You will certainly feel sad for a time, and feel a loss. It is only natural, since a part of that child will live in your heart forever. Many foster parents find comfort and understanding from other foster parents through support groups. Some foster parents find comfort in the fact that there will be new foster children who need their care and affection. Others feel satisfaction at helping a family become whole again. But all must go through a grief process and the St. Joe’s team is here to help you get through it.
Q? Is St. Joseph Children’s Home the right foster care agency for me?
A: All agencies offer one or two things that will meet your needs better than others. We are looking for families who are passionate, committed, and want to foster or adopt because they feel called to do so. St. Joseph Children’s Home has been serving children and families in Louisville since 1849. If you are looking for an agency that believes in matching kids with families, that has extremely high standards and expectations from both our staff and our parents, and is committed to supporting our foster parents however possible, St. Joseph Children’s Home is the perfect place for you! Becoming a foster parent requires a lot, but the rewards and support systems are great. Please let us know if you have any more foster care questions, and we’ll guide you every step of the way.