Becoming a Foster Parent
Role of Foster Parents
Foster parents provide a temporary, safe home for children in crisis. Children who need foster families have been removed from their birth family homes for reasons of neglect, abuse, abandonment, or other issues endangering their health and/or safety. Many of these children are filled with fear, anger, confusion, or a sense of powerlessness at having been removed from the only home they have ever known.
Is Foster Parenting a Good Fit for You?
There are some questions you should ask yourself before taking the next step to be a foster parent:
- Can I love and care for a child who comes from a different background?
- Can I help a child develop a sense of belonging in my home even though the stay is temporary?
- Can I love and care for a child who, because of fear of rejection and loss, does not easily love me back?
- Am I secure enough in my parenting skills while at the same time being willing to learn new parenting skills?
- Can I set clear limits, and be both firm and understanding in my discipline?
- Do I view bed-wetting, lying, defiance, and minor destructiveness as symptoms of a child in need?
- Can I tolerate major failures and small successes?
- Can I accept assistance and guidance from trained social workers?
- Can I maintain a positive attitude toward a child's parents, even though many of the problems the child is experiencing are a direct result of the parent's actions?
- Can I love this child with all my heart and let him go when it is time?
Little Known Facts About Foster Parenting
- There is no income requirement to be a foster parent
- Single individuals as well as married couples can become foster parents
- Over 80% of Virginia's foster parents adopt a child who they fostered
- There are national organizations that provide training, support and advocacy for foster parents
- Foster parents have a right to attend court hearings on their foster child and can discuss their concerns with the judge
- foster parents also are expected to help develop the service plan for the child with the social worker
How to Become a Foster Parent
Contact your local department of social services. Each local department works with new families in somewhat different ways but all prospective foster parents experience the following:
- A one-time orientation meeting to "learn what foster parenting is all about"
- Work with a foster family recruiter to discuss your interest in being a foster parent and the types of children who need foster families
- Complete a mutual assessment process which includes several meetings with you and other family members to:
- Make sure you have ample space, enough beds and space for the child to keep his belongings, meet basic fire and safety rules
- Make sure you are physically and emotionally capable of caring for a child and have no substance abuse problems
- Be able to pass a criminal history check
- Make enough money to provide for your own family so you do not have to rely on the foster care reimbursement you receive an income.
- Attend training to help you develop greater understanding of the trauma these children have suffered and new skills for relating to the children.
- Foster Care Newsletter (PDF)
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.
Informal Kinship Care
Under this arrangement, a child is not in the custody of a local department of social services. Assistance may include:
- General Relief
- Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program
- Medical Assistance Programs
- Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
- Preservation and Support Services
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
- A Guide to Exploring Kinship Care Options (PDF)
- Virginia's Legal Options for a Relative When A Child Cannot Live with His Parents (PDF)
- AARP (Web page)
- Generations United (Web page)
- Virginia Department for the Aging - Resources for Grandparents (Web page)
- Virginia Easy Access (Web page)
Applicable Law, Code & Regulations
- Federal Requirements (Web page)
- Adoption and Safe Families Act: Appling the Notice and Right to be Heard Provision in Virginia's Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts
- Child Welfare and Adoption Assistance Act of 1980: Public Law 96-272
- Title IV-B of the Social Security Act
- Title IV-E of the Social Security Act
- Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997: Public Law 105-89
- Foster Care Independence Act of 1999
- Code of Virginia (Web page)
- Federal Requirements (Web page)
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.
This involves placing a child with a foster family, group home, residential children's facility or an independent living arrangement.
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.
Physical or Mental Health Treatment
This service often includes help with:
- Substance abuse
- Nutritional deficiency
- Physical disabilities
- Providing good role models for parents
- Role modeling such as Big Brother/Big Sister programs
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.
- Section 01: Foster Care Overview (PDF)
- Section 02: Engaging the child, family and significant adults (PDF)
- Section 03: Entering Foster Care (PDF)
- Section 04: Opening and Maintaining the Case (PDF)
- Section 05: Conducting Child and Family Assessment (PDF)
- Section 06: Placement to Achieve Permanency (PDF)
- Section 07: Selecting Permanency Goals (PDF)
- Section 08: Achieving Permanency Goal Return Home (PDF)
- Section 09: Achieving Permanency Goal Adoption (PDF)
- Section 10: Achieving Permanency Goal Custody Transfer to Relatives (PDF)
- Section 11: Alternative Foster Care Goals (PDF)
- Section 12: Developing Service Plan (PDF)
- Section 13: Providing Foster Care Services (PDF)
- Section 14: Achieving Permanency for Older Youth (PDF)
- Section 15: Judicial and Mandated Foster Care Reviews (PDF)
- Section 16: Managing Foster Care Services (PDF)
- Section 17: Funding Maintenance Costs (PDF)
- Section 18: Closing a Case to Foster Care (PDF)
- Transmittal #245 (PDF)
Other Foster Care Guidance Manuals
- 90-Day Transition Plan for Success (DOC)
- Agreement to Resume Independent Living Services (DOC)
- Application to Resume Independent Living Services (DOC)
- Background Investigations (Web page)
- Best Interest Determination for Foster Care School Placement Form (DOC)
- Children’s Residential Facilities Agreement: Code of Ethics and Mutual Responsibilities (DOC)
- Contingency Fund Application (PDF)
- Education and Training Vouchers (ETV) Program Application (XLS)
- Education and Training Vouchers (ETV) Program Application (PDF)
- Financial Agreement for Local Department of Social Services Approved Providers (Foster Parents) (XLS)
- Foster Care Agreement: Code of Ethics and Mutual Responsibilities (DOC)
- Immediate Enrollment of Child in Foster Care (DOC)
- Independent Living Transition Plan (DOC)
- LDSS Response to Request for VEMAT Review (DOC)
- Reasonable Candidacy Documentation (PDF)
- Relative Notification (DOC)
- Request for VEMAT Administration Due to Change in Child’s Behavior (PDF)
- Request for VEMAT Review (DOC)
- Title IV-E Foster Care & Medicaid Application/Redetermination (PDF)
- Title IV-E Foster Care & Medicaid Initial Evaluation (PDF)
- Virginia Enhanced Maintenance Assessment Tool (VEMAT) (PDF)
- Virginia Putative Father - Registration (PDF)
- Virginia Putative Father - Request to Search Registry (PDF)