THE FOSTER CARE LICENSING PROCESS
The staff of MN Fostering Network would like to send a heartfelt ‘Congratulations’ to you on beginning to explore the option of foster care as this is a huge life decision! If this is the first time you are exploring this option, making a decision of this magnitude can often feel overwhelming.
Figuring out the first steps in the foster care process may seem daunting, but you are not alone. MN Fostering Network’s goal is to help provide information, education and support during the exploration phase, as well as throughout the entire foster care process and after.
While this is an exciting experience, it is also a complicated process that can feel at times overwhelming or confusing. You may find at various times you have lots of questions. In order to ensure your questions are answered, many families have found it extremely helpful to have a separate notebook, or app on their cell phone, to keep track of specific questions to ask throughout the process.
The purpose of licensing foster care providers is to assess the capacity of the prospective foster parents to provide for the safety, permanency and well-being of the children in their homes. In Minnesota, interested families and individuals can be licensed by counties, tribal communities, and private agencies in a one-step process for foster care and adoption. Child foster care licensing agencies all have the same basic requirements, but they can be met in various ways. These are some of the basic components:
- Informational Sessions
- Home Study assessment
- Background Studies
- Orientation and Training
- Home Safety Inspection
The foster care agency you chose will explain the process and requirements. Some of the agencies have additional requirements foster care providers are obligated to complete based on organizational expectations.
The outcome of the licensing process is that the agency will recommend to the state that you meet the standard and receive a license or to deny your application. If your license is denied you have the right to appeal.
Click on the (+) to open each section.
Informational sessions are an important first step to understand more about foster care in general, the needs of children in foster care and how agencies work with children and their
families to help them. Foster parents can be licensed by their local county, tribe, or private foster care agencies. People interested in providing foster care can attend informational sessions with multiple agencies to learn more about their specific needs and program. Some foster care agencies host group informational or orientation sessions on a regular basis, while others may provide them online or on an individual basis.
As you receive information and interact with the agencies you choose to explore, you may realize you feel more comfortable with one agency versus another. Finding the agency that fits you and your family is an important part of the process as they will help you navigate the foster care system and support you and your family once a child is placed in your home.
If you would like your information sent to your county agency and/or one of the private agencies, please fill out the online inquiry form and we will forward your information.
After interacting with the various agencies, you will be prepared to decide if moving forward feels right to you. As this step can seem complicated, many families have found it extremely helpful to keep track of questions to ask.
The agency application to begin the licensing process consists of paperwork and required documentation which you will need to complete/submit to move forward in the process. Examples of some of the required documents include:
- Application and individual fact sheets
- Letters of reference
- Biographical summaries
- Safety planning
- Home Safety Checklist
- Emergency Procedures
Some agencies may request additional forms specific to their agency during the process.
Your timeline for completing this paperwork will directly affect how long it takes to become licensed. During the licensing process, families meet with a licensing worker approximately 3-5 times, including in-home and office-based meetings. These meetings include time for you and
your worker to get to know each other while learning more about your family. It will provide you the opportunity to ask questions about the process you may have.
Your foster care worker will also explain the requirements for foster care licensing, the placement process, roles and responsibilities, and the agency expectations. As part of the licensing process, foster parents and licensing agencies are required to follow standards and practices when meeting the needs of foster youth. To review these requirements see the Agreement Between Foster Parents and Licensing Agency and the Summary of Child Foster Care Responsible Agency Requirements.
The Home Study is a crucial part of assessment process, in which your licensing worker will discuss your capacity for providing a safe and nurturing home for children. Sharing personal information with a licensing worker at times may feel uncomfortable or intrusive, but it is important to be as honest as possible. This open reflection, sharing and ongoing dialogue will aide your worker in helping you best prepare for this experience and assist in completing critical steps of the process. Your worker will want to meet with you and your partner/spouse, if applicable, both together and separately. The foster care worker will also want to meet with all other household members and any adult children living outside of the home, if applicable, to be sure they understand the impact foster care will have on the family.
Minnesota has a single home study process in order to reduce barriers and improve timeliness for permanency for youth. Here is a link to the Commissioner’s Designated Format for the Adoption and Foster Care Study which identifies the required information and forms: https://edocs.dhs.state.mn.us/lfserver/Public/DHS-4258-ENG
During the licensing process your foster care worker should explain the impact that trauma and removal has on children, and the skill-sets necessary to support and nurture them. This will provide you the opportunity to identify strengths and areas for ongoing education and development, so you can be best prepared to support not only the foster child(ren), but also yourself.
Once the licensing visits with your worker have been completed and the foster care licensing requirements all met, your worker will write the home study report. Depending on your home
study process, the time frame for completion will vary. Please check with your licensing worker on the timeline for this to be completed.
A fingerprint-based background study is required for applicants and any household members 13 or older or anyone having significant contact with foster youth. The foster care worker will assist with this process and submit the required forms. When the process is completed, applicants and household members will receive a letter from the Department of Human Services with the results. Please review the information at https://mn.gov/dhs/general-public/background-studies/netstudy-2.0-background-study-changes/ under the Fingerprints and Photos and Frequently Asked Questions https://mn.gov/dhs/general-public/background-studies/faqs/ sections for further information on the Adam Walsh background requirements.
One of the most time intensive expectations of foster care licensing is the orientation and training requirements. These requirements may occur in group or individual session and may occur during the day, evening, or weekend depending on the agency.
All applicants must complete orientation training prior to getting licensed; the specific training required and number of total hours varies by agency., but will include the following topics:
- emergency procedures
- relevant laws and rules
- cultural diversity
- gender sensitivity
- culturally specific services
- cultural competence
- information about discrimination and racial bias
- information about the role and responsibilities of the foster parent
- requirements of the licensing agency
Training requirements may include:
- Prudent Parenting
- Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)
- Car Restraint training
- Abusive Head Trauma (AHT)
- Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID)
- mental health (approved by your licensor)
As part of the licensing process, the foster care worker will provide information on how to access the required trainings. Some may be required in-person trainings while others may be online. In addition, training on medical equipment is required prior to the placement of a medically fragile child.
Children who need a foster family have experienced a variety of very difficult life events. This includes separation from family and may include various experiences of neglect, maltreatment
and other challenging experiences. Foster care orientation and required training will help you gain insight and knowledge into a variety of important topics associated with these early life experiences.
It should be noted continuing education and training is required for foster parents.
- 12 hours is required annually including one hour of mental health training
- car restraint training, SUID and AHT are required every 5 years.
MN ADOPT has a variety of supportive and educational programming to assist you throughout the lifespan. Many licensing agencies offer training throughout the year, check with your licensing worker to see what is offered in your area.
An important part of the licensing process is to ensure your home is safe for foster children. This includes but is not limited to:
- Adequate space for foster youth and their belongings
- Ensuring your home meets all building, fire, and zoning codes
- Safety planning for natural disasters
- Home is in good repair such as a recent furnace tune-up and free of rubbish
- Tools, sharps, weapons, chemicals, and other potentially hazardous materials are stored appropriately
- Safety items are in the home including a phone, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguisher
- Pets have up to date vaccinations
- Safe Sleep for infants
- In some cases, a Fire Marshall inspection is required if your licensor identifies any triggers that meet requirements or has a concern
- Review of potential hazards on your property such a wetland, busy road, junk cars, etc.
Your licensing worker will complete an initial inspection of your home and identify items needing to be modified or change in your home or on your property. They will also determine if you have an identified trigger for a Fire Marshall inspection and will discuss their agency’s process of having this completed. There is a link to the Home Safety checklist. http://www.dhs.state.mn.us/main/groups/county_access/documents/pub/dhs16_193585.pdf
If during the licensing process you are having difficulty meeting one of the standards, talk with your foster care worker about the possibility of a variance.
OUTCOME OF THE PROCESS
It is important to note that any time throughout the process an individual or family may withdraw from the process. Being a licensed foster care provider, does not guarantee placement of a youth in your home.
Children in need of foster care range from newborn to 21 years old and have a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and needs. Talk with your foster care worker about what characteristics of children you would be best prepared to care for and would be the best fit for your home.
Characteristics to consider include but are not limited to:
- Medical and Mental Health needs
- Supervision needs
- Sexual orientation
Additional considerations may include:
- size of your home and vehicle
- your community setting
- school district
- access to services
- your employment status
- your employment flexibility
Remember, if the agency calls you about a child you do not believe is a good match with your family, you can turn down the placement. It is better to say “no” than have the children disrupt and experience another transition.
Children will be placed in your home on an emergency basis and can happen any time of day or night. There may be limited information available about the children prior to them arriving at your home. Shelter homes generally need to be available 24/7 when they are on-call and be able to keep the child for 24 hours to 90 days.
Each county, tribal community, and agency will have established protocols on the referral process for shelter care. Some entities will have law enforcement contact you about placements, some will come from afterhours social workers, and some will come from the child’s worker. Ask your licensing worker about the process, and what documentation you might expect when a child it placed and who needs to be notified the following business day.
Ongoing Foster Care:
If you are licensed by a county, agency, or tribal community, they will contact you when a child (generally from your county or tribe) needing care meets your identified demographics. They will review the information about the child with you to determine if the child is an appropriate match for your home. Information is shared with you regarding the child(ren)’s demographics, needs, behaviors, reunification plan, visitation plan, etc.
If you are licensed by a nonprofit foster care agency, you can serve children throughout Minnesota; however, the youth must be placed by your agency. Once you have determined the general parameters, your licensing worker will begin reviewing possible children for foster care placement in your home. This process could take just a few days or many months, depending on the children who are referred to your agency needing care. Once your worker has identified a child(ren) who is a possible match, they will contact you to discuss the child. General information is shared with you regarding the child(ren)’s demographics, needs, behaviors, reunification plan, visitation plan, etc. Together with your licensing worker, you will decide if the youth is a match with your home. Your agency worker will contact the placing county. If the placement is not imminent, there may be a “pre-placement” visit in which the youth comes to the home for a few hours or days to assist in determining if the youth is a good match for your home.
After the foster child is placed with you, you will have many questions. We would recommend you document questions or concerns you may have in order to ask for clarification from the child’s worker. The placing worker for the child or your agency worker can assist you in determining who will enroll the child in school or day care, where the child receives medical services, when visitation with the child’s family will be held, etc. The child will remain in your care until reunited with family members, placed in a kin foster home, emancipate, are adopted or you ask for the child to be removed from your care. If you request a child to be removed from your home, unless safety for the child or other family members is at risk, you will be asked to give the agency a 30-45 day notice asking for the child’s removal.
Supportive Services to Families:
Respite care is a way to give biological/foster/adoptive families and youth a break from one another. There is a shortage of options for respite across the State of MN. If you are unable to provide ongoing foster care but are willing to help, respite care for short periods of time up to 29 days is a great way to support children and their caregivers. The amount of time a child would be in respite is generally agreed upon prior to the child coming to your home. Most commonly, it is during a weekend or school break for 1-2 overnights. You are not required to be licensed to be a child foster parent in order to provide respite care up to 72 hours, however, the process is determined by each county, tribal community, or private agency. Please contact agencies serving your community to learn more about their requirements.
Foster parents receive reimbursement for taking care of the children placed in their homes. Some children qualify for additional payments based on the level of parenting needed. Children receive supplemental payments to cover the expenses of extra needs and the additional efforts caregivers provide to meet those needs. For additional information on the reimbursement payments, please review https://edocs.dhs.state.mn.us/lfserver/Public/DHS-6736-ENG. For additional financial supports that may be available for foster children, please go to the following link. [Link to other financial section]
Useful Links and Resources
For more information about the background check process, visit: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=245C
For more information about home study requirements, visit: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=259.41
The Whole Brain Child By Daniel Siegel
Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel Siegel
Attachment Focused Parenting by Daniel Hughes
Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief by Pauline Boss
The Secrets of Successful Adoptive Parenting: Practical Advice and Strategies to Help with Emotional and Behavioral Challenges by Sophie Ashton
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk
Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control: A Love-Based Approach to Helping Attachment-Challenged Children with Severe Behaviors by Heather Forbes
Parenting the Hurt Child by Gregory Keck & Regina Kupecky
The Connected Child by Karen Purvis, David Cross and Wendy Lyons Sunshine
MN ADOPT Supportive Programs:
Here are some other helpful MN ADOPT programs that may be beneficial to you now and after your first foster child arrives at your home.