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Foster Care (FC)

Interested in becoming a foster parent? Contact your local department of social services.

About Foster Care

Foster care is intended to be a temporary rather than a long-term solution for children who have been removed from their birth family homes for reasons of neglect, abuse, abandonment, or other issues endangering their health and/or safety. Every effort is made to help the child remain with his or her family, however, when a child comes into foster care they are most often placed in a foster home. The foster family works as a team with the local department of social services, the biological family, the child (when applicable) and any additional community partners.

The temporary and complex nature of foster care places special demands on foster parents. They are asked to take someone else's child into their home, care for the child and treat the child as a member of their family. The Foster Care Program provides the necessary support and training to enable foster parents to provide daily care and supervision for the child in care.

Role of a foster parent

Foster parents are asked to provide a safe, stable, temporary and caring atmosphere for a child placed in their home. Foster parents become part of a team effort to support the child and implement the plans made for the child. This involves working with biological parents, courts, local departments of social services and other involved agencies.

Reunification

Family reunification is the process of returning a child to his or her family of origin following a placement in foster care. In Virginia, not only is reunification the primary goal for children in foster care, it is also the most common outcome. Research finds that children do best when raised in their own families, whenever possible. In order to successfully achieve reunification, challenges associated with the birth parents must be thoroughly addressed as the child's safety and well-being are paramount. This requires the support of the child welfare professionals and the child's foster parents.

Strong partnerships between birth parents, foster parents, local departments of social services, courts and other community partners are critical to achieving successful reunification and stability for children. Foster parents play a critical role in helping to involve birth families in case planning and decision-making, providing mentoring support of birth parents, and facilitating visits between children and their biological families.

Approximately one-third of children exiting foster care each year return to their parents' custody. Other outcomes include adoption, the transfer of custody to a relative, and emancipation (or aging out of foster care with no identified family).

In June, VDSS celebrates the accomplishments of the many parents who work tremendously hard to overcome challenges and barriers in order to have their children's custody returned to them. We also celebrate the many foster parents, child welfare professionals, attorneys, judges, treatment providers, and family members who support them in this work.

Permanency

When children are placed in foster care, it is imperative to find safe, permanent homes for them as quickly as possible. Permanency can have different meanings depending on the child, family, and case circumstances. Permanency can be achieved through 1) reunification, 2) placement with or custody transfer to a relative, or 3) adoption. Permanency helps youth establish and nurture a family connection that can provide a lifetime of support, commitment and a sense of belonging beyond temporary placement, even as they transition into adulthood. In many circumstances, children can be reunited with their families. However, there are some cases that require children to find permanent homes with relatives or adoptive families.

When a child comes to the attention of the child welfare system, the initial focus is on supporting and stabilizing a family to prevent an initial placement. If children must be removed from their families to ensure their safety, permanency planning efforts focus on returning them home as soon as is safely possible. If reunification is not an option, other permanent families may include relatives or adoptive families who obtain legal custody.

Becoming a foster parent

You must be at least 18 years of age or older to be approved as a foster parent. Individuals and/or couples must have the time and energy to give to a child and must meet all the approval requirements.

Steps in the approval process

  • Attend a one-time orientation meeting to learn what foster parenting is all about
  • Successfully complete pre-service training
  • Complete a home study
  • Participate in at least three (3) face-to-face interviews
  • Submit a national Fingerprint Criminal Record check, a child abuse and neglect history check, and a DMV check
  • Provide a physician’s report verifying that you are physically and mentally capable of caring for a child
  • Verify that you have enough income to provide for your family
  • Submit the names of three (3) references

Start the exciting journey to becoming a foster parent by contacting your local department of social services.

Who are the children?

The children in foster care come from many different types of families and range in age from birth to 17 years of age. There are approximately 5,000 children currently in foster care in Virginia.

Is a single person able to be a foster parent?

Yes. Foster parents can be single, married, divorced or widowed. The Commonwealth of Virginia does not preclude a person from being a foster parent based solely on their culture, religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, affectional orientation, or marital/civil union or domestic partnership status. The important thing is their willingness and ability to parent.

Is a foster parent able to hold a job?

Yes, foster parents are able to be employed outside the home.  In fact, your local department of social services may provide funding for child care for your foster children while you are at work.

How many foster children will I have?

This is determined for each family during the licensing process. Capacity of the home is based on multiple factors. However, the number of children in the provider's home shall not exceed eight (8) children.

Once a child is placed with me, how long will he/she stay?

Foster care is considered temporary and short term. Every situation is unique and a foster child’s time in foster care depends on the family’s circumstances.

If I become a foster parent will I have to meet/interact with the child's birth parents?

Yes, we encourage foster parents to work collaboratively with birth parents.

What happens when the child returns home?

A foster child's return home is usually the ultimate goal. The foster parent will have the opportunity to participate in the planning and to say goodbye to the foster child. This can be a difficult time, but the child's return home represents a success. Returning home is the goal for most children in foster care.

What happens when the child is unable to return home?

For some children, their parents are not able to regain custody and, if relative placement is not an option, the child may become available for adoption.

For some children, their parents are not able to regain custody and, if relative placement is not an option, the child may become available for adoption.
Foster children are covered by Medicaid, which covers all necessary care and treatment.

I've never been a foster parent before, will I have other support?

A worker will be assigned to support you throughout the child's stay in your home. As you foster, there will be opportunities to attend ongoing training sessions throughout the year. Child care, services and funding for other activities for children may be available. Joining a foster parent support group, such as FACES or the National Foster Parent Association (NFPA), is a good way to get advice and assistance from experienced foster parents.

Will a past conviction affect my eligibility to foster?

It depends on the nature, severity of the offense and length of time that has passed since the conviction. Applicants with barrier crimes cannot be approved as a foster parent.

My husband and I want to adopt and we have been told that we have to be foster parents first. Is this true or can we just be approved to adopt only?

If you are applying for adoption through a Licensed Child Placing Agency you can be approved to adopt without becoming a foster parent first. However, in Virginia, over 60% of our foster care youth are adopted by their foster parent.

Myth: I could never be a foster parent because it would break my heart when the child returned home

Fact: Even if a foster child is only with you for a short time, you may be the one person that can make a positive change in that child’s life forever. By building relationships with biological families, you could continue to have contact with a child even after they successfully reunite with their parents.

Myth: Foster parents have to stay at home with the children and can't work a full-time job

Fact: Most foster parents work outside of the home. Discuss child care options available with your local department of social services.

Myth: You must have an income of at least $45,000

Fact: There are no income requirements. Foster parents must have sufficient income to meet the needs of the family.

Myth: You must be married

Fact:You can be single, married, divorced or widowed.

Myth: You must own your home

Fact: You can own or rent a home, trailer or apartment.

Myth: You must have a college degree

Fact: There are no educational requirements to become a foster parent.

Myth: Foster children must have their own bedroom

Fact: Foster children may share a room. Children of the opposite sex over the age of three (3) shall not sleep in the same room.

Myth: Same-sex parents are not capable of providing a healthy environment for an adopted child

Fact: Children of same-sex parents adjust well and grow up in the same positive environment as those of heterosexual families.

Myth: Foster parents must carry foster children on their medical insurance

Fact: Most children in foster care are eligible for Medicaid. Foster parents are NOT required to carry foster children on their medical insurance.

Resources for Foster Care

Publications

    Kinship Care

    image of a red square resembling a bullet About Kinship Care

    Kinship Care is the full time care, nurturing and protection of children by a relative (Code of Virginia §63.2-100). The Virginia Department of Social Services supports placing children with relatives when children cannot live with their parents. In Virginia kinship care families are eligible for assistance based on either an informal or formal arrangement.

    image of a square resembling a bullet Informal Kinship Care

    Under this arrangement, a child is not in the custody of a local department of social services. Assistance may include:

    image of a square resembling a bullet Formal Kinship Care When the Child is In the custody of a local department of social services and living with a relative who is an approved foster parent, assistance includes the following:

    • Annual training to develop knowledge and improve skills regarding meeting the needs of the child
    • A monthly stipend for the child's basic care requirements
    • Assistance in the management of the child's behavior

    image of a red square resembling a bullet Related brochures

    image of a red square resembling a bullet Related Links

    Applicable Law, Code & Regulations

    FC Services

    image of a red square resembling a bullet About Foster Care Services

    Ideally, at-risk children should remain with their actual families whenever possible. Although foster care services offered by the state of Virginia make every effort to keep them together, it isn't always possible. Once it is determimed that a child must leave the family unit and go into foster care, a host of other services becomes available to them, which are designed to promote child safety and well-being within a nurturing, family environment.

    image of a red square resembling a bullet Placement Services

    This involves placing a child with a foster family, group home, residential children's facility or an independent living arrangement.

    image of a red square resembling a bullet Teaching Independent Living Skills

    Services are designed to help foster kids ages 14-21 to develop the skills necessary to transition from foster care to self-sufficiency. Personal development skills such as self-esteem, communication skills, decision-making, conflict resolution and anger management are emphasized.

    image of a red square resembling a bullet Physical or Mental Health Treatment

    This service often includes help with:

    • Substance abuse
    • Depression
    • Socialization
    • ADHD
    • Nutritional deficiency
    • Pregnancy
    • Physical disabilities

    image of a red square resembling a bullet Mentoring

    • Providing good role models for parents
    • Role modeling such as Big Brother/Big Sister programs
    • Tutoring

    image of a red square resembling a bullet Opportunity for a Permanent Living Situation

    This involves fostering relationships between children and relatives or previous caregivers. For older youth leaving care this might include helping find an apartment or a roommate.

    Guidance Manuals

    Foster Care

      

    blue square bullet Effective 07-2016

    blue square bullet Effective 07-2015

    blue square bullet Effective 04-2013

    Other Foster Care Guidance Manuals

    Forms

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