Becoming a Foster Parent
The foster care system of Texas recruits stable families who are interested in sharing their blessings with a child or sibling group in need of a safe and nurturing environment. It is important to know that you do not need to be a candidate for Sainthood to apply and begin the process to become a foster parent.
The Dallas family lawyers at Goranson Bain understand there are many reasons and circumstances that make it difficult for biological families to meet the needs of their children, which include poverty, substance abuse, mental illness, homelessness, loss of a job or lack of support from extended family and community. In foster care, these children are provided with a safe, nurturing, loving family for a temporary period of time. There are many types of foster care, including traditional care, emergency/shelter care, medical/therapeutic care, relative/kinship care, respite and short-term.
What Foster Parenting Is, and What It Isn’t
Foster parenting is not a lifetime commitment to a child and his or her family, but a commitment to be meaningful in the child and family’s lifetime. What foster parenting is, is an opportunity, a chance to make the world a better place, one child at a time. Foster parenting could be one of the most challenging steps you will take in your life and one of the most rewarding opportunities you will ever volunteer for.
What foster parenting is not, is simple. Like anyone caring for a child, it takes sacrifice and commitment. All types of foster parents are needed in every part of Texas. Being a successful foster parent is hard work and it requires opening yourself and your home. Yet, foster parenting can be some of the most gratifying work you will ever consider. Both single and dual-parent families make great foster parents.
Evaluating Your Capabilities
The key qualification is being able to meet the physical, emotional and developmental needs of a child. Foster care agencies are able to help you evaluate whether this is something you might be able to do. They do this through a process that helps you and the agency evaluate your capabilities. In addition, most agencies would expect that you meet the following:
• Provide 24-hour care and supervision on a daily basis
• Be able to care for yourself financially without the child’s stipend
• Be flexible, patient and understanding
• Have a home free of fire and safety hazards
• Complete a criminal/protective services background check
• Have the ability to work as a member of a team
Steps to the Licensing Process
All foster parents in Texas must be licensed or verified in order to provide care for children. The licensing process has certain steps that everyone follows.
- Contact a foster care agency. Foster care is provided by both private agencies and public agencies. The Texas Department of Children and Family Services will have a listing of approved agencies you can contact. The agency will ask for personal information such as your name, address and phone number so they may send information about the agency and the licensing/certification process. They may also discuss your motivation and their need for foster families.
- Initial Meeting. Some agencies offer information meetings. At an information meeting, the agency presents an overview of the role and responsibilities of foster parents. Information is also given about the agency’s need for foster parents and the type of children they serve in foster care. Other agencies will schedule an appointment in your home for the initial meeting. The first meeting will likely end with the licensing worker giving you an application and forms to complete. The worker should also give you a copy of the state foster care licensing rules and regulations.
- Exploring Your Interests and Capabilities. The licensing process is designed to help both you and the agency. While the process may vary, it always has two equally important purposes, one to help you, as a family, determine whether foster care is the right thing for your family, and to assess the children you might best serve and second, to help the agency determine whether you meet the requirements for licensure and to help them understand which children would fit with your family.
- Family Assessment. The family assessment is sometimes referred to as a “home study.” It involves gathering information about each member of your family and formally assessing your capability to care for children. The agency will likely ask you to complete a social history and several questionnaires. In addition, the licensing worker will ask you many questions about your childhood, relationships and interests. The assessment is extensive — but usually not difficult — and gives you an opportunity to think about yourself, your interests and your motivations.
- References and Background Checks. The agency will ask you to provide three or more references. The background checks are a formal review of your criminal and child protection history. The background check is important to ensure that people with a history of potentially harming children are not licensed.
- Home Safety Check. The agency is required to look at your house or apartment to assure it is safe for children.
- Orientation and Pre-Service Training. Most agencies require 10 to 30 hours of training before you can become licensed or before a child is matched with your family.
- Licensure. At the end of the study process, the licensing worker will complete a written report with recommendations and submit the appropriate forms to the licensing agency in order to have the license issued.
If your family is thinking of foster care, contact Goranson Bain and let our Dallas family attorneys help you begin the discussion.
This post was written by Patrick Kelly.