Foster Care Introduction

Welcome and thank you for taking the first step to becoming a foster family. Some people who visit this page have spent years thinking about becoming a foster parent, while others just learned about foster care and are looking for general information about the process.

 

Regardless of who you are, you have taken the first step to becoming a hero for children in foster care.

What is a foster family?

A foster family or foster home is a temporary, safe place to live until the children can be reunited with their families. The children may live with a foster family anywhere from a week to a year or longer. Foster families open their hearts and homes to children in need of safety, love, and nurturing.

Can I be a foster family?

Fill out the ”Contact Form” to start the process. There are some basic requirements to becoming a foster family. To learn more about the process, read the orientation information below and read the short ”Am I ready?” quiz.

About Foster Care

At any given time, there are approximately 3500 children in foster care in our community. These children have been neglected and/or abused and enter foster care by no fault of their own. When a child enters foster care, Our Kids is responsible for ensuring their safety and well-being. We first look for family members, neighbors, or someone close to the child who can care for them. In some cases, the children are placed in licensed foster homes.

What Is Licensed Care?

Licensed care is a program that provides temporary homes for children who cannot safely live with their families. In addition, it provides a safe and stable environment for the child while the biological family or caregiver receives help. Licensed foster parents, go through a rigorous screening process and receive specialized training to equip them to make a life-changing impact on these children.

How Do Children Come Into Care?

Following a report to the Abuse Registry (1-800-96-ABUSE), a Child Protective Investigator will conduct an investigation to assess the child’s safety. If a child is determined to be unsafe and services cannot be provided immediately to make the child safe, the CPI will take protective custody of the child. The CPI looks for a relative, family, or friend willing to care for the child. If no relative is able to take care of the children, they are placed in licensed care. Children placed in licensed care have been abused (physically, emotionally or sexually), neglected (physically, emotionally or medically) or abandoned by their caretaker.

What Is The Goal For Children?

The goal of Licensed Care is the safe reunification of the child with the parent(s). Children who cannot be reunified with their parents may become eligible for adoption.

What Is the Role Of A Foster Family?

Protect and nurture children in a safe environment with unconditional positive support.
Support relationships among children and their birth parents, siblings and important connections.
Support permanent placement for the child, focusing first on reuniting the child with their birth family or other options as determined by the court.
Help children cope with separation and loss.
Support children with building healthy attachments.
Use discipline (non-corporal) appropriate to the child’s age and stage of development
Build self-esteem.
Give positive guidance.
Support children’s cultural identity and religious beliefs.
Transport children to medical, dental and counseling appointments.
Transport children to visitation with parents.
Attend meetings and staffings for children placed in their home.
Work with service providers.

How Long Will A Child Stay In My Home if I am a Licensed Foster Family?

Some children only need overnight (Shelter) care or until a suitable relative can be located, others need to remain in care longer.
No matter what the duration, the licensed home is a temporary situation.

What Type of Children are in Licensed Foster Care?

Every child’s needs and behaviors are different.
It is not their choice to be removed from their biological parents. They may have great difficulty trusting their Foster Families or accepting affection.
When a home is selected for a particular child, an attempt is made to match family strengths with children’s needs.
Children in our system are good kids who’ve had traumatic experiences in their lives.
Because they have been abused or neglected, the children may demonstrate behavioral or emotional needs.
Children may ‘act out’ their past experiences. Children who have not been appropriately parented may have difficulty understanding rules or may not know how to express their feelings and needs.
Foster Families play a critical role in identifying a child’s needs and nurturing the child.

What Are the Requirements To Become a Foster Family?

Be at least 21 years old.
Foster Families must have a legal, stable source of income that is sufficient to support them and their family without relying on the child in licensed care’s board check. Both married and single people can apply and be considered to become a Foster Family. Paramours who reside in the home must also be licensed.
An applicant should be in good physical and mental health.
Your home will be inspected to see that it meets minimum safety and health standards.
Complete P.R.I.D.E. training course prior to licensure.
Complete an in-depth family assessment to include self-study questionnaires and other licensing requirements.
Thorough background checks will be completed for all applicants, adult household members and children age 12 or older living in the home. Background checks will include FBI, FDLE, local checks, child abuse registry check, DMV check, sexual offender and delinquency checks.
If you or anyone living in your home have been convicted or pleaded guilty or no contest to a felony crime, you might be disqualified from becoming a Foster Family.

Additional Information Needed

Pay verification.
Copy of driver’s license.
Verification of current auto insurance.
Health Certificate.

What type of participation is expected from the Foster Families in a child’s case?

It is an expectation that each Foster Family work with our children’s biological parents.
Foster Families are expected and encouraged to attend all court hearings related to their children’s cases.
Case staffings are held to discuss the progress of your child’s case. Foster Families are expected and encouraged to attend all staffings possible either in person or by phone in order to provide insight on the children’s progress and needs.

Some excellent family engagement activities include:

Transporting to and from visitation.
Supervising visits between children and their family of origin.
Inviting parents to medical appointments and teacher conferences.
Sending class work, artwork and pictures of the children to parents.
Inviting parents to special events like plays, picnics or ball games.

What are the board payment for the Foster Parents?

Foster Families receive monthly board for every child in their care.
These funds are reimbursements, not a salary.
Board payments are not taxable and cannot be used as a source of income.
Board payments cannot be used when applying for loans.
Receipts are not required for board payments.
Expenses incurred for the children after the board payment is spent are NOT reimbursed. Exact Board Rate payment amounts depend on the age of the child, the circumstances of the case, etc. However, board payments for young children are approximately $480 per month, and approximately $530-$580 per month for older children and teens.

Additional Information on Financial Obligations

Allowances provided in the board payment can NOT be taken away as a method of discipline.
Children in licensed care receive Medicaid to cover Medical, Dental and Therapeutic needs.
Children in foster care are eligible for WIC.

About the Child Welfare System

The Parents

When their children are removed, the biological parents are given a case plan made up of individualized requirements that must be completed before the court determines they can be safely reunified with the children.

Case Plans

Every family involved with the dependency system has a case plan.
A case plan is a document filed with the court that outlines tasks for parents, caseworkers and caregivers to complete to make the family safe from further abuse. Every case plan has a goal. Reunification with a parent is almost always the first goal for children who have been removed from the home.

Court

All dependency cases are reviewed by a judge at least every six months.
The agency will provide reports on the family’s progress to the court.
A judge can order changes in a child’s legal status.
A judge will order the type and frequency of visitation between parent and children. Judges like to have input from the Foster Family on the child’s progress.

About the Foster Family Licensing Process

Personal and Family Information

The licensing process is an assessment on you, your family and your home. Prospective Foster Families must be upfront and honest about themselves. You must be willing to share personal information about you and your family.

Information to be shared during Licensing Process

Marital issues
Criminal record
Abuse reports
Dependency involvement
Chronic health issues
Medications
Limited sight or hearing
Mental health issues
Poor relationships with adult children
Financial instability
Abuse suffered as a child
Domestic violence
Lack of transportation
Home daycare
Other adults living in the home, on the property or frequent visitors

Health
Prospective Foster Families must be physically and mentally capable of caring for children
Foster Families must have their physician complete a Health Certificate

Mental Health and Counseling
If you are on anti-depressants, anti-anxiety or other psychotropic medications, you will be asked to have your physician to complete a Health Certificate.
If you are in counseling or have been in counseling in the past, your therapist will need to provide a recommendation to our agency.
We may request an evaluation by a Psychologist, LMHC or LCSW if we see other concerns. You will be responsible to the cost of the evaluation.

Criminal and Child Abuse Background
Some crimes may disqualify a person from being a Foster Family. Violent crimes, drug related crimes and felony thefts are disqualifying offenses
A DUI in the past five years is also a disqualifying offense
If you are on probation for any crime, you cannot be licensed
A history of child abuse allegations is usually a disqualifier.
An extensive driving record may disqualify you

Home Requirements

Home must be inspected and approved by Our Kids’s Licensing Department.
For Licensed Care, children 12 months and younger can sleep in the Foster Family’s room in a crib. Before they turn 12 months there must be a transition plan to move them from the room as they can no longer remain in the room with the Foster Family unless a note is provided deeming it medically necessary.
A bed must be present for every child in your home.
Children age 3 and older cannot share a room with children of different genders unless it is siblings and only for a short time with a transition plan.
You must have a crib without drop sides set up in order to be eligible to be licensed for infants.
Children cannot share a room with a person over the age of 18. (if they are less than 1 year old they can sleep in a crib in the master bedroom).
The home must have a first aid kit.
Any medications (both over the counter and prescription) must be locked behind a key, magnetic or combination lock.
All chemicals (anything that says “keep out of reach of children”) must be locked behind a key or combination lock.
Thermometers must be located in the refrigerator and freezer.
The fire arms safety policy must be signed and agreed to.
All alcoholic beverages must be kept in a locked area.
Licensing staff will take photos of all household members and every room in the home to store on file.
A health inspection will be completed on the home by the assigned licensing specialist, which includes a water sample that must be tested by the County Health Department.
Hot water heater must be set to 120F or less.
Homes must be free of tobacco smoke.
Each foster child must be provided with personal space to store their belongings.
All pets must have up-to-date shot records (rabies shots for cats and dogs, whatever vaccinations are legally required for other pets).
If the dog is large and of a typically dangerous breed there must be a way to secure it away from children.
Home must have a safe outdoor area or one within reasonable walking distance.
Transportation and access to telephone must be immediately available for use in emergencies.
Home must have access to schools, churches, medical care, recreation and community facilities.
The home must be tested for Radon (Alachua, Union, Gilchrist and Suwannee Counties only).

Fire Safety

The home must have working smoke alarms near the bedrooms.
All combustibles must be stored away from sources of heat.
Home must not be heated by unvented gas heaters.
Evacuation route must be posted in visible location (copy of floor plan with routes marked) on each floor of the home.
Hold fire drill twice a year and when a new child is placed in the home.
All fireplaces, space heaters and hot surfaces must be shielded against accidental contact.
Must have two means of egress from every sleeping area.
Bedrooms on second floor must have either a window or door with an evacuation ladder.
Home is equipped with working smoke detectors in all bedrooms.
A tagged fire extinguisher (2A10BC or larger) must be located in kitchen and on second floor.

Transportation Safety.

All vehicles used to transport children must be equipped with seat belts.
All children ages five and under must be in an approved car seat.
All vehicles used by foster parents must have valid auto insurance.
All foster parents who drive must have a valid driver’s license.
Vehicles used to transport foster children must be free of tobacco smoke.

Pool Requirements

Any pool must be surrounded by a four foot tall barrier that is locked at all access points (your backyard can be fenced in).
All access through barrier has two of the following features: alarm, key lock, self locking doors, bolt that is inaccessible to children.
When swimming pool is not in use all entry points must be locked.
Steps or ladders leading to above ground pool must be secured, locked or removed when not in use.
Hot tubs will be required to have a safety cover that is locked when not in use.
Swimming pools will be equipped with a either a ring buoy, rescue tube or other appropriate flotation device with a rope attached.
Foster Families who have a pool or whose home is adjacent to a body of water unprotected by a four foot barrier will complete a basic water safety course (homepoolesstentials.org).
Foster Families must directly supervise all children who are using the swimming pool, spa or hot tub, or are in the pool area.
Foster Families must place life jackets on all foster children who are not proficient swimmers.

Our Community Taking Care of Our Kids