Apply to Become a Foster Parent

Idaho’s goal

To have foster and foster-to-adopt parents who are able to meet the diverse needs and characteristics of children in foster care: children with special needs, minority children, sibling groups, older children, and children who are in residential or group care placement who would benefit from a family setting. 

  • Foster parents are needed for children and youth of all ages, especially teens and sibling groups, medically fragile children, and children who exhibit behaviors that require a higher degree of supervision or skill.
  • Almost 40 percent of children/youth in foster care live with a relative or fictive kinship family. DHW begins the search for relatives and kinship (someone not related to the child but with a significant relationship) immediately and continues until a permanent placement is identified or the child is reunified with their parents. An expedited process allows for placement with a relative or fictive kinship family when a child enters foster care rather than a child being placed with strangers. However, sometimes it may take a few weeks or months before a relative can bring a child into their home. Non-relative families are needed to care for children during this time and help them transition to their relative or kinship family.
  • There are many children waiting for their forever homes with a loving family because reunification was not possible and a relative could not be located. To learn more about these children, please view the Wednesday’s Child website.
Licensing process

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 is our goal to support you in completing the licensing process, including pre-service training, in 90 to 120 days.

After approval

Once you are approved for foster and/or adoptive care, the time it takes to receive a placement depends on many factors, 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.  

A group of laughing smiling children
Foster parent or foster-to-adopt application
Start a new application to become a foster parent or return to an application

Step-by-step guide to becoming a foster or foster-to-adopt parent

Step 1 - Request information
  • The first step is to learn as much as you can about becoming a foster, foster-to-adopt, or a child specific adoptive parent. To get started, fill out the Request for More Information form. 
  • Upon receiving your request, you will be contacted by an experienced foster or adoptive parent -- also known as a resource peer mentor (RPM) -- or social worker who can answer your questions, share information, and provide assistance with the application process.  
  • Make a list, and be prepared to ask questions!
    • It is important to get as much information as you need before proceeding to with this journey.

If you are interested in child-specific adoption, visit Idaho's Wednesday's Child, and/or Wendy's Wonderful Kids.

If you are interested in the adoption of a newborn or a child not in Idaho's foster care system, visit A New Beginning Adoption AgencyAdoption.orgIdaho Youth Ranch Adoptions and/or Certified Adoption Professionals.

Step 2 – Initial orientation meeting

The next step in the process is attending an initial orientation informational meeting. This event will give you a basic understanding of:

  1. Who the children are that need care
  2. The roles and responsibilities of foster/adoptive parents
  3. The process you will need to go through
  4. The next steps you will take on the journey

It's important to show up to the meeting with an open heart and mind, and   

  • Listen carefully to what the presenters say 
  • Ask questions
  • Take notes  
  • Discover what it takes to get licensed  
  • Find out who your contacts are
  • Ask about upcoming meetings and note the dates and times

During this orientation, you may hear for the first time about the real challenges of fostering/adopting, including the background of some of the children and the length of the process.

At this point in the journey, you may become conflicted. Please don’t be afraid to ask any questions you may have. You don’t have to make any major decisions right now. The only decision you need to make is whether or not you want to continue to the next step.

Attend an initial orientation meeting near you 

Step 3 – Application process

At this point, you will complete your foster/adoptive parent application, if you have not already done so. You can complete and submit the application online. You can also request a hard copy by dialing 2-1-1 to reach the Idaho CareLine. Be sure to fill out all information including your personal and medical references. Our inability to contact these references is often a point of delay in the process. 

You may also start your criminal history background check after you have submitted your foster care application. Start the criminal history background checks. Follow the instructions in the link provided.

Before you apply for the criminal history and background check, you must know your "Employer/Agency ID #." Using this number will ensure that the correct office receives notification of your criminal history and background check status. Please write down the appropriate four-digit number below before you click on the criminal history and background check link.

You will be asked to submit the application before registering for the PRIDE pre-service training (see Step 4 for more information on this training):

Child and Family Services Agencies and ID numbers

  • Region 1 (Boundary, Bonner, Kootenai, Shoshone, Benewah counties)  - 1460
  • Region 2 (Latah, Nez Perce, Clearwater, Lewis, Idaho counties) - 1460
  • Region 3 (Adams, Washington, Payette, Gem, Canyon, Owyhee counties) - 1226
  • Region 4 (Valley, Boise, Ada, Elmore counties) - 1236
  • Region 5 (Camas, Blaine, Gooding, Lincoln, Jerome, Minidoka, Twin Falls, Cassia counties) - 1838
  • Region 6 (Bingham, Bannock, Power, Caribou, Bear Lake, Franklin, Oneida counties) - 1274
  • Region 7 (Lemhi, Custer, Butte, Clark, Jefferson, Fremont, Madison, Teton, Bonneville counties) - 1505

Ask for help if you have questions or don’t understand something in the application. The resource peer mentor and/or social worker will be happy to assist you.

Step 4 – Foster/adoption training

PRIDE (Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education) is the 27-hour pre-service training for potential foster and/or adoptive parents.  

  • This training is completed during the licensing assessment or home study. You will be invited to attend PRIDE after your application is received and reviewed for any missing or disqualifying information. Your invitation to PRIDE will also include a link to complete online training for the Reasonable and Prudent Parent.  
  • This process is an education for all and will help you learn the knowledge and skills you need to make an informed decision about fostering and/or adopting

NOTE: It is important to attend and actively participate in all training sessions. If you're looking to foster or adopt with a partner, it’s necessary for both parties to attend these sessions.

At the meetings, plan to give careful consideration to the information presented. Come prepared to ask questions. Devote time to consider the full impact of fostering and/or adopting on your family. Gain the necessary information to make a personal decision about whether to become a foster and/or adoptive parent. Learn what type of child you think you can best parent.

Sessions are designed to:

  • Begin the preparations for fostering and/or adopting
  • Create a basis for teamwork between yourself and the agency
  • Challenge you to grow and develop as a resource parent
  • Help you ask yourself the following: Is fostering/adopting for me?  Am I able to parent a child who has been neglected and/or abused? What type of child can I parent?
  • Provide a group setting to discuss and learn

During this step, you will begin the home study process. A licensing worker will contact you to schedule your first home visit within 15 days after your application is received. You will make friends with other prospective parents, staff, and experienced foster/adopt parents. You will start to feel like part of an enthusiastic, hard-working, and competent team. You are not in this alone!

Find out more about PRIDE Training

Step 5 – Dual assessment and home study

During the dual assessment and home study, a social worker will meet with you in your home to talk about your personal history, family relationships, and reasons for wanting to foster and/or adopt, and the supports you have available. The social worker will also want to include any children in your home in some of these conversations.

The term “dual assessment” is used to indicate the completed home study can be used for both foster care and adoption of children in foster care. Unless you specifically request foster or adoptive care only, all home studies completed by Child and Family Services are dual assessments.

Home visits may occur during and after completion of the PRIDE pre-service training. The social worker will use information obtained from your written autobiography, personal and medical references, home visit interviews, and PRIDE participation to write your home study.

The point of this step is for you to work with the social worker to decide if foster and/or adoptive care is a good fit for your family and to determine the characteristics of the children who best suit your parenting ability and family. Additionally, before a family can be considered as a possible resource for children, the home study must be approved.

During this step, applicants for foster care and/or adoption will:

  • Get agreement among household members about whether to proceed with the process
  • Cooperate with the dual assessment and home study
  • Ensure that they have provided all necessary information
  • Meet with experienced foster/adoptive parents, if you haven’t already done so

Ask for help as needed. You can delay this step if you feel that you or members of your household are not yet ready to continue.

Step 6 – Licensing and approval
  • The licensing and/or approval step requires patience. While our goal is to complete your home study and license within 90-120 days, you may be waiting for:
    • Results of your criminal history background check
    • Your personal and medical references to be provided to the department
    • The social worker to review your provided information
    • The social worker to complete your written home study along with other paperwork
  • Try to be patient and productive: 
    • Pursue further reading or begin networking with other foster and adoptive parents
    • Contact your resource peer mentor or social worker to answer questions and help solve problems during this period 
    • Contact your local recruitment coordinator or resource peer mentor to receive information about upcoming training and support groups

If approved and you want to participate, you’ll be ready for the next step in this journey – placement!

Childcare worker using colored pencils with toddler
Idaho Administrative Rule - standards for foster homes
Scroll down to section 400 to see the rules that will be referenced throughout the process
Woman and daughter using computer together
Licensing Standards
This is the process DHW must follow that will help prospective foster parents understand what to expect