What does a foster parent do?
A family home is the best place for a child to live. But some parents cannot provide a safe home and, as a result, the child is placed in foster care. As a foster parent, you are responsible for providing a safe and nurturing living environment. At the same time, your role includes working with the child’s social worker and family so that the child can, hopefully, return home at some point in the future.
Who can foster or adopt?
Foster and adoptive parents are as varied as the children needing homes. Successful foster and adoptive parents are everyday people who come from all races, religions, incomes and educational backgrounds. No two families are alike. They are:
- Single, married or divorced
- Able to financially support their own family
- Own or rent a safe residence, with space for a child
- Can work with social workers and/or therapists and other support people
- Have no parenting experience, are raising, or have raised children;
- Have not been convicted of child abuse or neglect, spousal abuse, a crime against children or homicide;
- Are flexible, energetic, and able to care for a child
- Work inside or outside their home, or are retired
- Are open to learning new things
- Can talk with social workers about themselves and their families
Children in foster care have been through a lot of life-changing experiences in their short lives. The maturity, coping skills, experience and knowledge you’ve accrued over the years will aid in caring for a child as a foster and/or adoptive parent.
Are there any age restrictions to foster or adopt?
You must be 21 years old to become a licensed foster parent and Idaho law requires an adoptive parent be at least 25 years of age OR 15 years older than the child they are adopting. There are no maximum ages for foster care or adoption.
How long does the licensing and adoption process take?
The length of time it takes to complete the assessment and licensing process depends on how quickly your application, personal and medical references, and background checks are received, and when you are able to complete PRIDE pre-service training. It seldom takes longer than 6-12 weeks to begin the training phase of the home study process.
Once you have been approved for foster and/or adoptive care, the time it takes to receive a placement depends on many variables, which may include: the type of child (age, sex, race, health, etc.) you are willing to accept, the number and type of children in need of placement, and the type of placement you are willing to accept (short-term or long-term).
The Department typically works with a birth family toward reunification for 12 months. If reunification of the child with their birth family is unable to occur, the court may terminate parental rights and the child is then available for adoption. If you are selected to adopt a child, the law requires a six-month supervision period.
Is there an application, home study, or criminal history background fee?
There are no fees for the application or home study process for prospective parents who are becoming licensed and approved to provide foster or foster and/or adopt care for children placed by Children and Family Services (CFS).
There is a fee for processing background checks through the criminal history unit. However, these fees are waived for prospective foster parents who are becoming licensed and approved to provide foster or foster/adopt care for children placed by CFS. This fee is waived when the prospective foster and/or adoptive parent uses the 4-digit employer (CFS) ID # provided at the time of application.
Is financial assistance available?
Foster parents are reimbursed for the cost of caring for each child based on the foster care room and board rate according to that child’s age. There are three foster care payment categories: Shelter (Level 1), Basic (Level II) and Specialized (Level III). Shelter foster care payments are paid for the child’s first thirty days of placement. Basic foster care payments are made to foster parents who provide care for a child who has no identified exceptional needs. Specialized foster care payments may be made for a child who requires additional care above room, board, daily supervision and incidental costs.
Children in foster care qualify for Idaho Medicaid for their health care coverage. In addition, clothing and payments for day care (as necessary due to the foster parent’s employment) are provided. Financial assistance for clothing and day care is not available after adoption.
The Department does not charge a placement or supervision fee for families adopting a child in the foster care program. Your family will need to obtain the services of an attorney to file the petition for adoption. If you are adopting a child eligible for adoption assistance, these fees can qualify for reimbursement after adoption finalization. Financial assistance for adoption may be available through one or more of the following sources:
- Adoption Assistance: Idaho offers an adoption assistance program for eligible children with “special needs”. Most children in foster care are considered to have special needs. Adoption assistance can include up to $2,000 reimbursement of adoption-related costs, a monthly subsidy for the ongoing care of the child, and a Medicaid card to assist with medical expenses until the child is 18 years of age.
- Adoption Tax Credit: You may be able to take a tax credit for qualifying expenses paid to adopt an eligible child, including a child with special needs. The adoption credit is an amount subtracted from your tax liability. Learn more through the IRS website.
- Employer Benefits: A number of employers offer adoption benefits. Contact your Human Resources department to inquire about the availability of adoption benefits.
- Military Benefits: The military provides active-duty personnel a reimbursement for most one-time adoption costs. The National Military Family Association provides further information and resources.
- Loans and Grants: Loans or grants are available through a variety of organizations such as adoption agencies, foundations and banks.
Who are the children in care?
They are children right here in Idaho who are removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Children needing foster and adoptive homes look like other children and have a wide range of abilities and personalities. Children of minority backgrounds are overrepresented in foster care. Many of the children have special needs. Most are school-aged. Brothers and sisters need a family where they can live together.
In most cases, when children are placed in foster care, the plan of first preference is to return the child to their birth family and the service plan will identify the efforts of all parties for this to occur. For that reason, families whose exclusive goal is to adopt are encouraged to contact one of Idaho’s licensed private adoption agencies or certified adoption professionals.
What are “special needs”?
Many children in need of foster or adoptive care are described as having “special needs”. Special needs can refer to: the age of the child; the need to be placed with at least one sibling; and/or emotional, developmental and medical problems.
Some special needs are the result of abuse, neglect, or abandonment experienced by the child. Other special needs have biological causes, which may be further aggravated by neglect and abuse. Examples of special needs include Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, learning disabilities, Autistic Spectrum Disorders, and fetal alcohol and drug syndromes.
Regardless of their special needs, the important thing to keep in mind is that these are children in need. What they need most is the stability of a strong, loving family to support them during their journey through the child welfare system.
Can foster parents adopt?
Yes, they can. However, adoption is rarely the goal at the time a foster placement is made. Children continue to be involved with their parents and extended family while in foster homes; most children are eventually returned to their birth parents. Others are placed with relatives. The Department prioritizes preserving connections and placing children with extended family.
Families who have experienced fostering are a great resource for children who are not able to return home safely or be placed with a relative. In more than half of foster cases that end in adoption, relatives or non-relative foster parents eventually adopt the child for whom they have provided care. Some families choose to become dually licensed and approved to foster and adopt.
If it is determined that reunification with the birth parents is not in the best interest of the child, parental rights may be terminated and the child becomes available for adoption. Adoption gives a child legal and emotional security and gives the new parents the same legal rights and responsibilities as birth parents. Every year, many children in Idaho need an adoptive home.
What is the difference between a public agency, private agency, and independent adoption?
A public agency adoption is one facilitated by the Department or other state or county social service department. It is limited to the adoption of children within its custody. The focus of a public agency adoption program is to locate families for the children in their care. Thus, these programs do not help you find a child to adopt.
A private agency is state-licensed and may be for-profit or nonprofit and may or may not have a religious affiliation. Private agencies may specialize in domestic infant adoption, special needs adoption, and/or international adoption. These agencies will help you find a child to adopt.
An independent adoption is one in which the birth parent places the child directly with an adoptive parent for the purpose of adoption.
What is ICPC?
The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) is a binding agreement between all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It sets forth the requirements that must be met before a child can be placed from one state into another state. The Compact ensures prospective placements are safe and suitable before approval, and it ensures that the individual or entity placing the child remains legally and financially responsible for the child following placement. There are no fees charged to a family being considered for foster and/or adoptive care as the result of a request made through the ICPC.
How can I help a child without being a foster or adoptive parent?
There are many ways to help these children without being a foster and/or adoptive parent. Volunteering, mentoring, donating, making space available in your community for parent/child visitation, and assisting foster parents with transportation are all examples of ways you can help. Please contact your local One Church One Child VISTA/Liaison by calling 2-1-1. If you are interested in helping a specific child, contact the child’s social worker directly.
What if I have additional questions?
A current licensed or approved foster/adoptive parent can be a great resource for prospective or adoptive parents. If you have additional questions, you may wish to talk with a Resource Peer Mentor. Check with your regional Child and Family Services office for contact information or contact the Idaho Child Welfare Research and Training Center. RPM’s provide valuable support, expertise and resources for prospective foster and adoptive parents.