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How to become a foster parent

Discover answers to many of your questions about becoming a foster parent and preparing for your first placement.

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If you are thinking about becoming a foster parent, you likely have many questions. Discover answers to many of your questions about the licensing process and preparing for your first placement.

I’m interested in becoming a foster parent. How do I get started?

Bethany offers an orientation class where you’ll learn about the children in foster care, policies and procedures, and the next steps to become licensed. This class is purely informational—there’s no expectation of commitment.

Find out when the next class is offered in your area.

When I’m ready to begin the licensing process, what does it cost?

The licensing process is free. But everyone in your family will need to complete a physical exam, so you may incur some cost there if your insurance does not cover it.

What are the next steps?

A licensing specialist will work with you on your application and fingerprinting.

Your specialist will conduct approximately three home visits. They will assess your home and family. They will speak with any children in your home and interview you about your childhood, schooling, employment, marriage, parenting style, and more.

You will complete some paperwork, and your specialist will write an approximately 25-page report that summarizes the home visits. If approved, the report will be sent for another approval by the state.

Once you’re approved, your specialist will notify you, and you’ll receive your license by mail.

How long does the licensing process take?

Your process shouldn’t take longer than six months. It depends on how quickly you move through your training. Some families get it done in three months. The total time from start to finish will vary from state to state.

How much training will I receive?

You’ll begin with pre-licensing training that includes trauma-informed parenting, behavior management, and discipline. You’ll also complete additional online training before you can be licensed.

*Each branch has a different training schedule with classes that are convenient for your schedule. Your local branch can provide specific information about training requirements. *

How long do I wait until my first placement?

If you are licensed for a wide age range, expect a placement soon. A narrow age range (or if you are only accepting males or females) will take longer.

How long is the average placement?

The average placement is about nine months. One year after a child is removed from their home, a court hearing determines the plan for the child. The court’s goal is to find permanency, whether the child is reunified at home or eventually placed with an adoptive family.

Can I decline a placement?

Yes, we encourage you to only take placements that you feel comfortable with.

Where do I meet the child? Does someone bring them to my home?

This varies, but typically a social worker from Child Protective Services will bring the child to your home. Soon after, you will be assigned a Bethany foster care specialist who will follow up with a visit.

What can I do to make the first few days easier for the child?

The first few days can be awkward until you develop a routine. Remember, being removed from their home and placed in foster care is traumatic. We encourage foster parents to go along with whatever the child is doing. If they want to sleep with all of their clothes and belongings, let them do that. Or if they don’t want to eat, don’t force them to eat.

Try to be relaxed, even on some of the house rules. Give them a chance to adjust to where they are. Don’t force conversation, but let them know they are safe, and you are available to help.

What should I have in the house to be ready for my first placement?

Kids typically come with a few things of their own, but sometimes they have nothing. It’s good to have a few items of clothing on hand—pajamas, a few sets of socks and underwear. Have a toothbrush for them and a few items that are specifically theirs, such as a stuffed animal they can keep. Foster parents often go shopping with the kids the next day for other essentials.

What if I need help?

During normal business hours, call your foster care specialist. Outside of office hours, we have emergency staff on call 24 hours, seven days a week.

We know you likely have even more questions you’d like to ask as you consider whether being a foster parent is right for you. Download our free ebook or contact us to learn more.

Become a foster parent