Foster care is a system by which a certified, stand-in parent cares for minor children or young people who have been removed from their birth parents or other custodial adults by state authority. Responsibility for the young person is assumed by the relevant governmental authority along with Refuge House and a placement with a family is located.
Foster Care placements are monitored until the birth family can provide appropriate care or the rights of the birth parents are terminated and the child is adopted.
A third option, guardianship, is sometimes utilized in certain cases where a child cannot be reunified with their birth family and adoption is not right for them. This generally includes some older foster children who may be strongly bonded to their family of origin and unwilling to pursue adoption.
A foster parent receives monetary reimbursement from Refuge House for each child while the child is in his/her home to help cover the cost of meeting the child’s needs. The amount of financial assistance typically varies from state to state and even city to city.
ABOUT STATE (PUBLIC) ADOPTION
Foster-adopt families are those primarily interested in becoming adoptive parents, and are willing to become foster-licensed in order to take a child who is not yet legally free, but for whom termination of parental rights has been started or is planned. In these cases, DFPS (Department of Family and Protective Services) and Refuge House are working on two concurrent plans: reunification with the birth parents while pursuing another permanent placement should reunification efforts fail.
Because parental rights have not yet been terminated, these placements carry with them some legal risk for the foster/adopt family. The court may decide not to grant the DFPS’ petition to terminate parental rights and order the return of the child to the birth parent(s); or it may give the birth parents additional time to correct deficiencies.
Different cases involve different degrees of legal risk. The prospective foster/adopt family should always ask the child’s caseworker to carefully explain the circumstances of the child’s legal situation to them. Foster/adopt families may also be called upon to have some degree of contact with the child’s birth parents or extended family. Some children may still be involved in court ordered visits with their birth parent(s).
A legal risk placement is one where the child is placed with a foster/adopt family before parental rights have been completely terminated. The case plan is adoption and usually the termination process has begun. A foster/adopt family is selected for the child so that the child will not have to move again if the court does proceed to terminate the birth parents’ legal rights. The foster adopt family has been licensed for foster care and may or may not have had their adoptive home study completed yet.
The prospective foster/adoptive parents may be single or married and must:
- be at least 21 years of age, financially stable, and responsible mature adults,
- complete an application,
- share information regarding their background and lifestyle,
- provide relative and non-relative references,
- show proof of marriage and/or divorce (if applicable),
- agree to a home study which includes visits with all household members,
- allow staff to complete a criminal history background check and an abuse/neglect check on all adults in the household, and
- attend free training to learn about issues of abused and neglected children.
The training provides an opportunity for the family and Refuge House to assess whether foster care or adoption is best for the family. The family may withdraw from the meetings at any time. There is no charge for the meetings. Foster/adoptive parents generally train together.
Additional Foster Care Requirements
In addition to the basic requirements, foster parents must:
- have adequate sleeping space.
- allow no more than 6 children in the home including your own children or children for whom you provide day care
- agree to a nonphysical discipline policy.permit fire, health and safety inspections of the home.
- vaccinate all pets.
- obtain and maintain CPR/First Aid Certification
- obtain TB testing as required by the local Health Department for household members.
- attend up to 50 hours of training each year
Responsibilities of Foster Adoptive Families
- provide daily care and nurturing of children in foster care;
- advocate for children in their schools and communities;
- inform the children’s caseworkers about adjustments to the home, school, and community, as well as any problems that may arise, including any serious illnesses, accidents, or serious occurrences involving the foster children or their own families;
- make efforts as team members with children’s caseworkers towards reunifying children with their birth families;
- provide a positive role model to birth families and
- help children learn life skills.
- provide permanent homes and a lifelong commitment to children into adulthood;
- provide for the short-term and long-term needs of children;
- provide for children’s emotional, mental, physical, social, educational, and cultural needs, according to each child’s developmental age and growth;
- may become certified as a foster family and accept children who are not legally free for adoption, but whose permanency plan is adoption.