THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE FOSTERING
Fostering brings unique experiences and challenges which will require you to look at your life from different perspectives. As you think through this decision and whether or not it’s the right fit for your family, we encourage to spend some time reflecting on the following questions and reviewing them with your support network and your licensing worker if/when you move forward.
Taking time to focus on your reactions and answers to these questions will help you better understand your areas of strengths, as well as those that will benefit from additional support, education and guidance. Not all of the questions below will apply to every family or situation, but rather, encompasses a wide range of possibilities which may apply to traditional or relative/kinship care.
The first questions you need to consider are: What is your motivation for becoming a foster or kinship parent? Do you want to give back to the community? Is it a calling? Did a relative or someone you consider kin ask you to care for their children? Do you feel obligated? There are many different reasons for wanting to be a foster parent, consider your reasons as you think through the questions below.
Understanding Child’s Experience
- What books have you read that are written by adults who were in foster care?
- Have you attended a workshop with a panel of adults who were in foster care?
- How would you handle things when your foster child is skeptical of you or has conflicting loyalties between you and their family?
- Are you expecting your foster child to trust you right away or are you willing to wait weeks or months?
- Picture how you will react when your foster child exhibits a behavior you’ve never done or seen someone do. Would you be able to put the behavior aside and think about the reasons behind it?
Race and Culture
- Are you comfortable engaging in challenging and respectful conversations about racial, cultural and socioeconomic differences?
- Will you make every effort to increase understanding of, and respect for, the religious, racial and cultural heritage, and sexual orientation and gender identity of a child and their family?
- Is the community in which you reside culturally diverse? What resources are available in your community to help support children from diverse backgrounds? Are you willing to identify your own “inherent racial bias? Begin to read books about how people of color are portrayed along racial, ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic lines.
- Do you have friends or family of different races and cultures?
- How are you prepared to incorporate your foster child(ren)’s race and culture into your daily life?
- Are you willing to put yourself in situations where you will be the minority, so your foster child won’t be?
- Are you willing to face the tough stuff in your foster child’s history and come to terms with how it makes you feel?
- Do you think you’ll be able to talk to your foster child about his or her early life experiences in a way that doesn’t label or blame them or the family they were removed from?
- Do you understand that even if your foster child has experienced abuse, he or she may still love their family and have positive memories of them? How will you honor these feelings?
- Are you willing to maintain safe connections to people who were important in your child’s life before you knew them including but not limited to siblings, parents, extended family, clergy, teachers, coaches, etc.?
- Do you expect that your foster child will be grateful?
- Do you have set expectations about your foster child will integrate into family life (i.e. tidiness, grades, sports)? How will you feel when these expectations aren’t met?
- In what ways do you expect to bond to your foster child right away? How will you feel if that doesn’t happen?
- Do you have difficult experiences from your own childhood that may impact your ability to parent a child with a traumatic history? What have you done to work through these issues? What can you do to keep these emotions separate from caring for your foster child?
- Can you think of a time in your life where you needed persistence? What things helped you move forward during this difficult time? Was this example something that took one week, one month, one year of hard work?
- Are you willing to let go of your views on consequences to make your relationship with your foster child a priority?
- How will you respond if your plan for the day gets unexpectedly changed due to your foster child’s needs or behaviors?
- Do you have a boss who will be understanding of your family life that includes stress, many appointments, phone calls at work, leaving for emergencies, etc.?
- Will you be open to therapists and foster professionals telling you to try a way of parenting that is different than what you experienced as a child or how you may have parented other children?
- How would you describe your level of patience when children exhibit challenging behavior?
- How do you handle a stressful day at work or confrontation with a family member or friend?
- What do you do each day to maintain balance?
- How good are you at forgiving yourself and others?
- What are some examples of how you deal with anger?
- Your foster child will likely have experienced neglect or abuse. What resources are you aware of to support a child with a trauma history?
- Are you someone who readily asks for help or likes to figure it out on your own?
- Do you know someone who has been in foster care or a foster parent? Do you feel comfortable talking to them about their experiences?
- Who are the support people in your life that you can call when you’re struggling?
- Are you open to using foster care related services to gain more education and resources?
Advocating for Child
- How will you educate family and friends on an ongoing basis to help them understand your foster child’s needs?
- Are you willing to be a persistent voice for your foster child, so they receive the educational and support services needed to succeed, even when you feel you’re not being heard or understood?
- Are you willing to have tough conversations with people who don’t understand your foster child or who don’t respect your foster child’s life experience?
- Therapy/skills/PCA services are often recommended for youth in care. Are you willing to allow service providers to come into your home (sometimes several times a week) in the best interest of the children? Or are you willing to transport the child to services out of your area, if they are the best option for the child?
- Are you open to learning new or different parenting and discipline strategies?
- Are you willing to allow visitation with parents or other family members to occur in your home?
- Are you willing to support friendships even if the friend lives out of your area?
- Will children be involved in extracurricular, social, and cultural activities appropriate for their age and abilities while residing in the home?
- Are you able to support reunification even if you don’t believe it is in the best interest of the child?
- Are you willing to be the concurrent planning option for youth in your home?
Click on the (+) to open each section.
An initial step is to explore foster care from your local county agency or tribe or one of the many private nonprofit foster care agencies that serves your area. This will assist you in learning more about their organization and the specific foster care programs they provide. 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.
Contacting a variety of foster care agencies will provide you with the information needed to learn more about the agency, the various programs available and their process. The information received should cover:
- Information about children in need of families
- What you can expect during the home study process
- How long it generally takes to be licensed with their agency
- What supports are available to foster parents and youth
- What are the agencies expectations of foster parents
As you receive information and interact with the agencies you choose to explore, you may realize that you feel more comfortable with one agency versus another. Finding the agency that feels like a right fit for you and your family is an important part of the process as they will be helping 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. [add link to inquiry form]
After interacting with the various agencies of your choosing, you will be prepared to make a determination if moving forward feels right to you. Below you will find information on the Home Study & Foster Care Licensing process. As this step can seem complicated, 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.
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
A thorough background check, including fingerprints scans, will also be required for anyone age 13 or older living in the home or having significant contact with the foster youth. Please review the information at https://mn.gov/dhs/general-public/background-studies/netstudy-2.0-background-study-changes/ under the Fingerprints and Photos section for further information on the Adam Walsh background requirements.
Many of the above documents are required by the State for the home study process, and your timeline for completing this paperwork will directly affect the timeline of your home study process. During the licensing process, families meet with a licensing worker approximately 3-5 times, including a mix of 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 any and all questions about the process you may have at this point. During these meetings, your foster care worker will also explain the requirements for foster care licensing, the placement process and the agency expectations.
The Home Study is a crucial part of process. 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 licensing worker in helping you best prepare for this experience and assist in the critical steps of the process. Your licensing 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 your adult and minor children, if applicable, to be sure they understand the impact foster care will have on the family.
During the licensing process your foster care worker should explain the significant trauma children in foster care have experienced and the skill-sets necessary to 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 child(ren) who enters your family, but also yourself.
Once the office and home visits with your licensing worker have been completed and the foster care licensing requirements all met, your worker will begin writing 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.
This process is an emotional journey that will likely bring up life experiences you have had and how they may impact your foster care journey. Since this is a foundational aspect of your foster care experience, engaging in ongoing support and education is a crucial component to help establish a strong foundation for the foster child(ren) and family as a whole.
It is important to note that any time throughout the process an individual, family, or worker may make the decision that moving forward with the foster care process is not a fit at this time. Being a licensed foster care provider, does not guarantee placement of a youth in your home.
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. Orientation is a minimum of six hours covering 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, and requirements of the licensing agency. Training requirements include Prudent Parenting, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), Car Restraint training, Abusive Head Trauma (AHT), Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID), and mental health (approved by your licensor). Many of these trainings are available on-line, however, check with your licensing worker about their agencies requirements before taking them. In addition, training on medical equipment is required prior to the placement of a medically fragile child.
Children who are in need of a foster family have experienced a variety of very difficult life events. This includes separation from birth 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 types of early life experiences.
It should be noted continuing education and training is required for foster parents. A minimum of 12 hours is required annually including one hour of mental health training with an additional one hour of training on FASD. Retraining of 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.
If you are considering adopting a Minnesota Waiting Child, your agency may require you to attend one of the training sessions sponsored by a Public Private Adoption Initiative (PPAI) agency. These trainings are offered statewide and usually last two days/between 12-20 hours. Your licensor will help you identify if you need to attend and how to sign up for the training.
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
- 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.
The placement process varies from agency to agency and depends on if you are planning to provide care as a shelter home, respite provider or ongoing foster care family. However, the general process is the same.
During the licensing process you will be discussing with your worker the types of children you believe will fit with you and your family. Factors to consider include but are not limited to: age, gender, behaviors, abilities, sexual orientation, culture, ethnicity, and race. Additional considerations may include: size of your home and vehicle, your community setting, school district, access to services, your employment status, and 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.
If you are interested in providing shelter care, 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 child prior to them being taken to 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, tribe, 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 after hours 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.
Respite care is a way to give biological/foster/adoptive families and youth a break from one another for short periods of time up to 29 days. The amount of time is generally agreed upon prior to placement of a child. Most commonly, it is during a weekend or school break for 1-2 overnights.
Your county, tribe, or licensing agency will review the information about the youth and contact you with information about the youth needing respite if they believe it will be a good match with your home. You will then decide if you are able to provide care as needed by the youth. Some agencies will arrange the respite for you and others will allow you to arrange the respite directly with the youth’s parent or care giver.
Traditional Foster Care:
If you are licensed by a county agency or a tribe, 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. General 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 continue to keep a notebook or electronic document of 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 biological family will be held, etc. The child will remain in your care until they are reunited with biological family, placed in a kin foster home, emancipate 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.
FOSTER CARE REIMBURSEMENT
Foster parents receive reimbursement for taking care of the children placed in their homes. Effective July 1, 2017, the Northstar Care for Children basic monthly payment for all three programs was increased by 15 percent, as follows:
- Ages birth to 5: from $525 to $650
- Ages 6 to 12: from $670 to $770
- Ages 13 and older: from $790 to $910
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.
Other possible financial supports for foster children may include:
- Foster children up to age 5, are eligible for medical assistance. Please contact your local health department.
- Free/Reduced breakfast and lunch at school
- Clothing allowance in the first 60 days of the initial placement.
- Forgotten children’s fund for special purchases.
- SELF fund for items related to independent living (work uniforms, driver’s ed., etc.)
Please talk to your agency to see what may be available for the age of children you have identified to serve.
Useful Links and Resources
If you are interested in learning more about being a foster care provider, please visit: https://mn.gov/dhs/people-we-serve/children-and-families/services/foster-care/programs-services/steps-to-become-a-foster-parent.jsp
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
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