Foster Care FAQs

What is Foster Care?

Foster care is the temporary placement of a child who has been removed, through no fault of his/her own, from their home and family due to concerns for safety and may have been abandoned, abused and/or neglected.

What is a Foster Home?

A foster home is a temporary home for children, who have been abused; neglected; abandoned; and/or have special needs, and have been removed from their home and family because of safety concerns.

Who are Foster Parents?

Foster Parents are those individuals who have completed the training and requirements to become a Licensed Foster Parent. They provide a temporary, loving, safe and secure home-like setting for children, while their parents are working towards reunification of their family.

 

Today’s Foster Parents are highly skilled, respected members of a team who love and nurture children, support and mentor families, and strengthen their communities. Our Foster Parents are highly committed, well-trained, patient, persistent, and idealistic. Like every parent, they are part- teacher, part-doctor, part- counselor and part -advocate. Because of the amazing Foster Parents in Miami-Dade and the Florida Keys, our most vulnerable children are growing up to be productive, contributing citizens.

What kind of services do Foster Parents provide?

There is no one specific service provided by Foster Parents, but they are, first and foremost, a temporary parent for a child. They also act as advocate, therapist, social worker, and friend for a child who was been removed from his/her own families. They are the temporary caregivers of the children placed in their charge.

How many children come into the Foster Care system?

Through no fault of their own, children can be removed from their homes due to abuse, abandonment, and/or neglect, and it has been determined that there may be a concern for their safety. Children are placed in foster care as a temporary placement when relatives or non-relatives familiar with the children cannot be identified.

Who are the children and families that require Foster Care?

The children and families who require foster care have been through the trauma of abuse, abandonment, and/or neglect. There may be substance or domestic abuse issues, or even health issues within the family.

What types of children come into the Foster Care system?

All ages, races, and genders, from newborns to teenagers come into the Foster Care system. Some of the children display challenging or complex behaviors. We have a special need for Foster Parents to care for teenagers and sibling groups.

Who are the children who need Foster Parents?

All children who have been removed from their own homes and are in foster care have suffered from abuse, neglect, or abandonment by a parent, and were unable to safely remain in their homes. They range from newborns to age eighteen. These children live in your communities and come from diverse backgrounds.

 

Whenever possible, they live with relatives; when that is not possible, the children are placed with a foster family. Foster families provide these precious children a temporary, safe place to live until they can be reunited with their families, or when that is not possible, until an adoptive family is identified. The goal is for all children to have a permanent home within one year of being removed from their home.

What are some of the challenges Foster Children face?

The children are affected by the separation from their family, and sometimes this stress and worry shows up in their behaviors.  Abuse and neglect, for example, can have an effect on brain development, and moving from home to home can prevent a child from forming healthy attachments to adults.  Young people in foster care may suffer from developmental delays, physical disability, depression, poor academic performance, low self-esteem, and poor hygiene.  Because of the trauma and loss the children have experienced, they need extra amounts of understanding and patience in adapting to your family’s routines.  It’s important to remember that with the right foster family and the right services, children can often deal successfully with their challenges.

How long do Foster Children stay in a Foster Home?

While the birth family works with resources in the community to help them resolve the issues that caused the children to be removed, the children may live with a foster family anywhere from a week to a year or longer.

Frequently Asked Questions - Fostering Our Kids

Foster Care Requirements and Qualifications

Who can be a Foster Parent?

In Florida, you may be eligible for Foster Parenting if you:

  • Are committed to loving and nurturing a child in your home;
  • Are willing to work in partnership with everyone involved in the child’s life to meet the child’s needs;
  • Are dedicated to helping a child be reunified with the biological family;
  • Are at least 21 years old;
  • Attend required training sessions;
  • Consent to criminal and child abuse registry checks;
  • Are financially able to provide for your present needs and family emergencies;
  • Pass a health inspection of your home;
  • Have enough physical space in your home to accommodate children;
  • Are willing to meet with a licensing counselor for an in-depth home study to determine if your family meets these requirements
What are the basic requirements to be a Foster Parent?

You must be 21 years or older, be financially self-supporting, and meet the qualification necessary for working with children. These basic requirements also include background checks, the ability to work with many community partners (including the birth family) and continuing training to enhance skills as a Foster Parent. The licensing process requires a minimum of 21 hours of Training, (currently PRIDE Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education training) and a Home Study Assessment.

How long does it take to become a Foster Parent?

It can possibly take as little as two (2) months to be a Foster Parents, extenuating factors will extend this time.

What is the process of becoming a Foster Parent?

You must attend the Foster Parent training and have a home study done that will include a thorough background check of you and your family members. There are additional requirements such as employment verification, references, an initial health screening by your family doctor, auto insurance and pet vaccinations.

Can an LGBT individual or couple foster a child?

Yes they can. If married, or unmarried and living together, both must attend training and go through the licensing process together.

Is there an age requirement?

Yes, you must be 21 years or older to become a licensed Foster Parent.

Do I have to be married?

No. Singles, as well as couples, may become Foster Parents if they meet the basic requirements for approval. If married, or unmarried and living together, both must attend the training to become Licensed Foster Parents.

Will I be fingerprinted?

Yes. You must remember that the child’s safety is of utmost importance. All household members over the age of 18 years old will be fingerprinted and a thorough background screening is required. This will also apply to any one who is a frequent visitor to your home. For household members ages 12-17 years old a Juvenile Justice Record Search will be required.

Is there an income requirement?

There is no minimum income requirement, but applicants must have legal and stable income that is sufficient to support themselves and their family.  You must have sufficient income to absorb four to six weeks of a foster child’s care, as well as unexpected costs that may arise for the child, until the initial payment of the “board rate” is received.

Is there a home ownership requirement?

Home ownership is not a requirement; an applicant can own or rent a home, condo, or an apartment and still be a Foster Parent, but there must be sufficient and adequate space in the home to accommodate the child and his/her belongings.

What does sufficient and adequate space mean?

There must be sufficient and adequate space for the children. Children in care cannot share a bedroom with any adult, except for infants 12 months or younger. Also, any child over three must not share a bedroom with a child of the opposite sex. Each child must have his/her own bed and each infant his/her own crib. The child must be provided with adequate storage space for his personal belongings and a designated space for hanging clothes in or near the bedroom he or she will be occupying in your home.

Can I work outside of the home?

Most Foster Parents have full time jobs outside of the home. Assistance with child care or afterschool programs is available if both Foster Parents work.

Become a licensed Foster Home

What do I need to do to prepare my home for foster children?
  • Must have a thermometer in both the refrigerator and freezer.
  • Must have a first aid kit available.
  • Home and yard must be free from clutter
  • All walkways and exits inside the home must be clear
  • Home must be free of exposed wires.
  • All medication, poisonous and hazardous materials/chemicals and cleaning supplies must be secured (locked) in a closet, container or cabinet, which is inaccessible to children (locked area must not be laundry room or bathroom).
  • Combustible items must be stored away from any heat source and it is recommended that they be stored in a locked location.
  • Water quality will be tested for all homes with wells.
  • All doors with locks must open from the inside.
  • All swimming pools must have a child safety fence or the side of an above ground pool that is at least 4 feet in height.
  • All access points to the pool must be locked when the pool is not in use.
  • Hot tubs must be secured with locked cover.
  • Alcoholic beverages must be inaccessible to children. It is recommended to families who prefer older children that alcohol be stored in a locked location.
  • Weapons, such as guns or a bow and arrows, must be locked and inaccessible to children.
  • A fire extinguisher (size 2A10BC) must be kept in or adjacent to the kitchen. If the home has a 2nd story, another fire extinguisher must be kept on the 2nd floor. All fire extinguishers must be inspected and tagged annually.
  • If the home has a 2nd story, another means of escape, such as a safety ladder, is needed.
  • Smoke detectors must be present in all sleeping areas (this does not mean in each bedroom).
  • Fire drills must be conducted at least every 6 months and every time a new child is placed in the home.
  • Heating sources, fireplaces and any other hot surface will need a protective barrier in place to prevent accidental contact.
  • Burglar bars on windows must be easily collapsible.
  • There must be a window or door in each bedroom, in addition to the exit/entry door.
Is there a limit to the number of children in my home?

Yes, there can be no more than five (5) children under the age of 18 years old in the home, including your birth or adopted children. In an effort to keep large sibling groups together, the State of Florida does allow for exception to this rule.

What does licensed mean?

It means you have completed your Pride classes, concluded and passed your home study and you have been cleared to be a Foster Parent.

Are there different types of Foster Home Licenses?
  • Standard Foster Home, requiring a minimum of 21 hours of PRIDE Training
  • Medical Foster Home, requiring an additional 40 hours of Medical Foster Care Training and becoming a Medicaid provider
  • Therapeutic Foster Home, requiring an additional 40 hours of Therapeutic Training and licensing by of one of our many Therapeutic Service Providers.
What is therapeutic foster care?

Therapeutic foster care is model of care that combines positive aspects of nurturing and family environment with active and structured therapeutic treatment. Children in therapeutic care are typically 12 years or older, have had multiple placements, and may be coming from a more restrictive setting such as a group home or residential facility. These children receive more support services and need a more therapeutic and nurturing environment to heal from loss, abuse, and neglect.

What is the difference between a traditional or standard Foster Home and a Therapeutic Foster Home?

Traditional Foster Homes serve a different set of children, who generally have fewer emotional or behavioral needs, who need a lower level of case management and r therapeutic support. Both kinds of Foster Homes provide nurturing, safe and custodial care for children who require placement outside of their family. Therapeutic Foster Homes have active and structured therapeutic supports and services that occur in the home.

What is a Medical Foster Home?

The Medical Foster Care Program is designed to get foster children out of hospitals by placing them with specially trained Foster Parents in the community. A Medical Foster Parent is any licensed Foster Parent who is willing to take a Medical Foster Parenting class and able to learn how to care for a child with medical needs. A forty (40) hour Medical Foster Parenting training course is required. This course helps our Medical Foster Parents understand and learn how to attend to the needs of medically complex children and their families.

What is the difference between a traditional or standard Foster Home and a Medical Foster Home?

The goals of the Medical Foster Care Program are the same as those for regular foster care:

  • To provide a safe and nurturing temporary placement and
  • To help establish reunification with either the birth family or a permanent placement adoptive family.

To achieve this goal, Medical Foster Parents participate in teaching the biological or adoptive family to care for the medically involved child. While in the Medical Foster home, children receive care in an effort to improve their medical condition. Medical Foster Homes also minimize multiple hospitalizations and help prevent these children from being forced to live in institutions.

Foster Placement

Will I meet the child before placement?

You will not always meet the child before placement. Usually, it will be a Child Protective Investigator who has removed the child from his/her parent’s custody and needs to find an immediate placement for the child. If a child has been in a temporary emergency placement, or has been in a different foster home, there is an opportunity to meet the child before they are placed in your home.

Can I foster a child of another race?

Yes you can Foster a child of another race. The children that come in to our care are all ages, races, and genders, from newborns to teenagers, and to teenagers with their own babies.

Will I get to choose the age or sex of the child?

You can request the age and sex you would like to foster,; however, the needs we have may sometimes be outside the scope of your specific wants.

What about discipline?

Spanking or any other type of corporal/physical discipline is NOT ALLOWED with foster children under any circumstances. Training in the use of alternative, appropriate methods of discipline, such as Positive Parenting, will be provided by your licensing agency and Our Kids.

Once I am licensed, how long does it take for a placement?

It can be as early as a few days, depending on the needs of the child that is coming into care. It may depend on where the child goes to school or services that the child may need. Sometimes it may take longer, but rest assured that the need is there , and that you will be called upon to help a child or group of children.

What about Birth Parents?

As long as the child is safe and cared for, the best place for that child is with his or her own family. Child welfare laws and services are geared to help keep families together and to keep children with their parents. Children remain out of their parents’ care only when, in the opinion of the court; the children are not safe in their own homes. Therefore, all services offered to a parent or family is designed to ensure that the child can be safely returned to their home. If the child is temporarily removed from the birth family’s care, it is important to understand what is expected from them, and that they fulfill all of their responsibilities, as based on the case plan they develop with their Full Case Manager.

Do I have to meet with the Birth Parents?

Depending on the case, a degree of interaction with the parents is necessary to establish what is in the best interest for the child. You will be asked to co-parent with the birth family, especially when reunification is the goal for the child and family. Just know you must communicate effectively about your comfort zone, and be assured that safety of the child and your family will be maintained.

Why should I meet or work with the Birth Parents?

Child Welfare Professionals across the country and here in Florida realize that children in foster care do better when parents and Foster Parents develop a partnership focused on the well-being of the child. When children see parents and Foster Parents working together, it can reduce children’s acting -out behavior. Maybe they are acting out because they are trying to get sent home, or maybe they are showing that they miss their parent(s). Other times, children feel divided loyalty, and they believe that if they do well in the foster home, it will hurt their parent. When they see their parent and Foster Parent together, they understand, “I don’t have to feel this way.”

What is Co-Parenting?

Co-Parenting is a strategy where Foster Parents work in partnership with the child’s Birth Parents and the Full Case Manager toward the goal of reunification.
This team approach to parenting allows both families to bring their strengths to focus on the well-being of the child and allows the child to focus on growing, learning, playing and developing to his/her potential during a difficult time.

What are some of the benefits with working or co-parenting with the Birth Family?

Birth Parents at ease to be able to communicate with the people who are caring for their children.

  • Gives the Birth Parents access to ask personal questions of the Foster Parent about the children’s mental and physical health, as well as school, day care and everyday happenings.
  • Encourages the Birth Parents that the Foster Parents are working with them to be reunified with their children.
  • Creates a stepping stone to support the Birth Parents by continued communication with their children in a more natural environment, whether it be telephone calls, accompanying the Foster Parent to doctor visits, school events and/or meetings.
  • Asks Birth Parents to be more responsible for the care of their children and puts them together in one forum with the other people who help care for their children.
  • Places willing Foster Parents and other caregivers in the position of being able to model parenting behaviors for the biological parents.
  • Can remove the anxiety that occurs when children feel torn between different parent figures.
  • Asks age appropriate children to also be part of the team.
  • Clarifies roles and expectations at the outset of the placement, leading to more stability and less frustration by all parties.
  • Most importantly, co-parenting forms a team of the parents, the Foster Parents, the full case managers, and anyone else who is involved in caring for the child.
Do Foster Parents ever adopt?

Yes. Many Foster Parents grow close to the children in their care. Foster Parents can and do adopt children that come into their lives when it is not possible for the child to return home or to be placed with a relative.

Foster Financial Questions

Is there a cost to becoming a Foster Parent?

The training classes and process to become licensed are both free of charge. This includes the cost of fingerprinting for background screening.

Does it cost anything to be a Foster Parent?

Yes, there may be costs that you incur on behalf of the child. For the most part, the monthly board rate is a minimal amount of what it costs to raise a child. There are supports within the community through Our Kids, the Foster-Adoptive Parent Associations, Voices for Children and other organizations for some of the extras children need.

Will there be financial assistance?

Foster Parents receive a monthly check called the “Board Rate”, which is intended to cover room, board, and a portion of the child’s needs.

Are there subsidies for Foster Parents?

There is a monthly Board Rate paid to the Foster Parents which is intended to cover room, board, and a portion of the child’s needs. This Board Rate also allows a certain amount to be given to the child for clothes, incidentals, and an allowance. The Board Rate varies due to the age of the child.

What support services are available to Foster Parents?

A caseworker will be assigned to work with you and the children in your home. Assistance with child care is available if both Foster Parents work. Training is provided to help understand and deal with children with challenging behaviors, as well as with special needs. There are local Foster-Adoptive Parent Associations run by Foster Parents, as well as fun events and activities planned throughout the year. The new Our Kids Foster Parent Mentor Program provides support to new Foster Parents during the first six (6) months of licensure.

Who pays for the child’s medical needs?

The State of Florida pays for the child’s medical, dental and therapeutic needs and services through Medicaid and MediPass.

Who is responsible for purchasing the children’s clothes and other personal items?

Each school year, Our Kids provides school uniforms and a school clothing allotment for all children in care. A Board Rate, as described above, is given to the Foster Parents on a monthly basis for each child in their care. This Board Rate is used to cater to the needs of the child, with a portion going to the children’s clothes, allowance and other personal items. Some items can be reimbursed, but must be approved by the Full Case Manager before purchased.

Foster System of Care

What is DCF?

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) is the state agency charged with investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect and ensuring the safety of these children. The department does this by providing support services to children and their families, and in some cases, providing a place outside of the home for children to live while their caregivers work to provide a safe and stable home for them.
The Department of Children and Families contracts with eighteen (18) Community-Based Care (CBC) Partners to provide prevention, intervention, foster care and adoption services to thousands of families in the State of Florida. Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe, Inc. is one of these eighteen (18) CBCs. Our Kids is responsible for Miami-Dade and the Florida Keys. Together, the CBCs are doing more than ever to support excellent parenting and to include foster families as partners in their mission to strengthen children and families.

What is the role and function of the Florida Department of Children & Families (DCF)?

The role and function of DCF is to conduct, supervise, and administer a program for dependent children and their families. The services of the department are directed toward the following goals (Section 409.145(1), F.S.):

  • The prevention of separation of children from their families;
  • The reunification of families who have had children placed in foster homes or institutions;
  • The permanent placement of children who cannot be reunited with their families or when reunification would not be in the best interest of the child;
  • The protection of dependent children or children alleged to be dependent, including provision of emergency and long-term alternate living arrangements;
  • The transition to self-sufficiency for older children who continue to be in foster care as adolescents;
  • To establish and administer an adoption program for special needs children to be carried out by the department or by contract with a licensed child-placing agency. (Section 409.166(3)(a), F.S.);
  • To administer a system of independent living transition services to enable older children in foster care and young adults who exit foster care at age 18 to make the transition to self-sufficiency as adults. (Section 409.1451(1)(a), F.S.).
Who is considered a special needs child?

A special needs child must meet all three of the following criteria:

  • A child whose permanent custody has been awarded to the Department or a licensed child placing agency; and
  • A child who has established significant emotional ties with his or her Foster Parents or is not likely to be adopted due to age, developmental disability, physical or emotional handicap, black or racially mixed parents, or
  • Member of sibling group of any age where two or more are being adopted together; and a child for whom a reasonable but unsuccessful effort has been made to place the child without providing a maintenance subsidy.
What is a Child Protection Investigator?

A Child Protective Investigator investigates allegations of abuse, neglect and abandonment of children by their caregiver. The investigator will interview the child, caregivers, and other contacts to determine whether a child is safe. If a child is not safe, the CPI can remove the child from the home.

What Is Community-Based Care?

Community-Based Care (CBC) is a comprehensive redesign of Florida’s Child Welfare System. CBC combines the outsourcing of foster care and related services to competent service agencies within the community. Thus, there is an increased local community ownership of service delivery and design. This innovative statewide reform increases accountability, resource development, and system performance.
The Department of Children & Families actively negotiates and contracts with respected local, non-profit agencies to provide child welfare services in local communities for children who have been abused, neglected and/or abandoned. Community-based care is designed to transition child protective services to local providers under the direction of lead agencies and community alliances of stakeholders. These groups work within their community to ensure safety, well-being, and permanency for the children in their care.

A statewide network of comprehensive, community-based care agencies have been equipped to manage and deliver services to Florida’s foster youth. Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe the Community Based Care Lead Agency for Miami-Dade and the Florida Keys.

What is Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI)?

Our Kids proudly participates in the Florida Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI) to redefine how communities regard foster care and to recruit skilled, dedicated and caring people as Foster Parents. QPI was developed to ensure that every child removed from their home because of abandonment, abuse or neglect is cared for by a foster family who provides skilled, nurturing parenting while helping the child maintains connections with their birth families. The foster family works closely with Our Kids, Full Case Managers, the courts, attorneys, and other to protect the child’s best interests.

How does QPI work?

A state-wide movement to alter the view of foster care, QPI represents a cultural shift in the way foster families function, and how they work with other professionals. With QPI Foster Parents are to be treated as valued members of the team. Foster Parents are professionals and are experts on the children in their home. In addition to respecting Foster Parents, QPI also focuses on allowing Foster Parents to make normal, common decisions as they would for their own children.

What does a Full Case Manager or “caseworker” do?

A Full Case Manager helps provide an array of services to help families cope with complicated situations in the most effective way possible. They help families to identify their goals, needs, and resources. With the support of the case manager, families will understand the behaviors that brought us into their lives and what needs to be different. The Full Case Manager and the family together formulate a plan to meet those goals. They help the family to find resources and facilitate connection with services. The Full Case Manager also maintains communication with the family, the children in care and the Foster Family. The Full Case Manager is required to see and photograph the children in care every 25 days.

A good Full Case Manager will work with the families to determine what is important to them and what they agree would be the most effective way to reach those goals. FCM do not manage people—they help people to manage complicated situations. Simply put, they help to keep the family and the children at the center of services being provided.

What is Guardian ad Litem Program (GAL)?

The Guardian ad Litem Program (GAL) provides children who enter Florida’s dependency system with quality advocacy that includes the monitoring of their safety and welfare; pursuing their legal and best interests; and obtaining them a permanent home. Program attorneys, volunteer supervisors, and volunteers facilitate this advocacy, acting as a team. The program’s advocacy team is critical in being able to effectively represent the best interests of the children. When a child is taken into state care and the GAL program is appointed, the advocacy team takes on specific legal and operational responsibilities for the child. The advocacy team meets regularly to review the child’s safety and well-being; they assist the child in navigating the dependency system.

What is Children’s Legal Services (CLS)?

The Statewide Law Firm for Florida’s Children Children’s Legal Services (CLS) is the Department’s law firm representing the State of Florida in child welfare matters. CLS serves a number of functions:

  • Providing counsel advice and technical assistance to the Family Safety program office training Protective Investigators and Community-Based Care (CBC) partners in child welfare legal issues;
  • Coordinating with those Investigators and CBC partners to review potential cases and preparing those personnel as witnesses in filed cases; and
  • Representing the State in court in all Chapter 39 dependency cases, at the trial court and appellate levels.

Their vision is “We envision Children’s Legal Services as Florida’s legal authority on child welfare issues, leading the nation in advocacy of the care, safety, and protection of children and respected for its competence, dedication, and professional expertise.”

Parent Training

Is there special training to become a Foster Parent?

Yes, the Our Kids’ PRIDE (Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education) Pre-service training for foster and adoptive parents will assist you in deciding if becoming a Foster or Adoptive Parent is right for you and your family.
Key components of the training course include:

  • The importance of teamwork;
  • Co-Parenting techniques to work with the birth family;
  • Meeting developmental needs of the child in your care;
  • Helping children with loss and attachment and the effects of trauma;
  • Strengthening families; and
  • Continuing family relationships.
What training does a Foster Parent receive?

The Our Kids’ PRIDE (Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education) model is based on specific competencies (knowledge and skills) needed to successfully perform the tasks of Foster and Adoptive care.
The essential competency categories are:

  • Protecting and nurturing children
  • Meeting children’s developmental needs and addressing developmental delays
  • Supporting relationships between children and their families
  • Connecting children to safe, nurturing relationships intended to last a lifetime
  • Working as a member of a professionals team

Foster Parents must complete a minimum of 21 hours of training.

What kind of continuing training and education is required once I become a Foster Parent?

Each year a Foster Parent must complete 8 hours of in-service training. Within the first year of licensure:

  • Training on Psychotropic Medications
  • Water Safety Training
  • Trainings regarding understanding behaviors and the effects of trauma will be required as part of this in-service training program. These trainings are offered in the classroom and as on-line trainings.
What is a Home Study?

A Home Study is comprehensive assessment of the family and the physical environment of the home.

  • It is completed when a Licensing Counselor goes to the actual home of the perspective applicant and completes a thorough assessment of the physical environment that describes the home and reports on the health and safety of the home.
  • It also is a complete description and assessment of every adult who resides in the home which will include health and financial information, background screenings, references and commitment to PRIDE Competencies. Frequent visitors to the home will also be noted in the Home Study as well as their completed background screenings.
How long does a Home Study take?

The comprehensive Home Study begins at the initial home visit by the Our Kids Licensing Specialist. There are a minimum of two (2) home visits by the Licensing Specialist. The initial home visit is prior to training and a second visit occurs during the PRIDE Training Course. The Home Study is a process that begins at the time of your first home visit and is completed during your time in training.

Our Community Taking Care of Our Kids