About Foster Parenting

Filed under: Parenting

Nearly 400,000 children and youth are currently in foster care in the U.S. LGBTQ youth are over-represented among the population of young people in foster care. Every day foster care agencies across the country search for safe and affirming homes for LGBTQ youth. Caring adults can make a real difference in the lives of these young people by becoming foster parents. This page provides some basic information about foster parenting.

What is Foster Care?

Children and youth in foster care have been temporarily placed with families outside of their own home due to experiences of child abuse or neglect. This means that, for many, their homes have been broken by death, divorce, drugs, alcohol, physical or sexual abuse, illness or financial hardship. LGBTQ youth in foster care have often experienced family rejection because of their LGBTQ identity. The goal of foster parenting is to provide a safe, stable, nurturing environment. Foster parenting requires courage, empathy, patience and tenacity as well as love.

What To Prepare For

Like any big commitment, there are many things to consider when thinking about becoming a foster parent. One of the most important things a foster parent needs to be prepared for is having a child in your home and then having them leave. Nearly half of all children in foster care have an end goal to be reunited with their families. In situations where reunification is not the goal, adoption through foster care may be an option.

Empathy, patience and preparation are necessities for foster parents. Many children and youth come into the foster care system with histories of trauma which can lead to emotional and behavior health challenges. Foster families should learn about and prepare to help young people cope with their feelings of abandonment, experiencing abuse and a lack of nurturing. Click here for more food for thought when considering foster parenting.

Steps To Becoming A Foster Parent

Requirements for becoming a foster parent differ from state to state. However, there are some universal requirements such as: being 21 years of age or older; passing a criminal background check; and completing a successful homestudy and training.

Below are the basic steps to becoming a foster parent as outlined by the National Foster Parent Association. These steps are standard no matter where you decide to foster parent.

  • Complete an application for a family home license.
  • Complete a background check, a criminal history check and finger printing of each adult member of the household.
  • Have a stable and supportive family.
  • Complete a homestudy and interview.
  • Provide character references.
  • Be 21 years of age or older.
  • Complete training before you may receive your license.

Finding an Agency

While the names may vary, you need to contact the government agency in your state that is responsible for foster care. It might be called "The Department of Human Resources,""The Division of Children and Family Services,""The Department of Social Services" or something similar. For the easiest way to find the foster care agency in your state, go to the National Foster Care & Adoption Directory Search maintained by the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

  • For tips specific to finding an LGBT-inclusive agency, check out this page.
  • Review HRC's list of agencies committed to LGBT-inclusion.
  • Learn about state LGBT adoption and foster care laws here.

Foster Parenting & Finances

The decision to become a foster parent includes several financial considerations. In most cases, foster parents receive a set reimbursement to help with expenses while a child is in their home. The monthly stipend ranges from $200 to $700, depending on the age of the child and the state and county you are in. Most states also provide small clothing allowances and some day care or day camp funds. Foster children also are covered under your county, state and federal welfare health benefits for their medical and dental needs. For more information see Federal Tax Guide for Foster Parents.

Deciding If A Placement Is The Right Fit

There are many questions that you will want answered when considering a specific young person, or a sibling group, for a foster care placement at your home. Watch this video from AdoptUSKids to learn more about young people in foster care. Here are a few of the basics questions you'll want answered:

  • What is the child's name, age, race, gender and sexuality?
  • Why is the child being placed?
  • What is the child's medical history and current medical needs?
  • What was the last school attended? And how was the child performing in school?
  • Are there any known behavioral issues or safety considerations (e.g., gang affiliation, sexually acting out, setting fires, stealing or lying)?
  • Has the child been in foster care before? In how many homes? What was the average length of stay? And why?