Foster Parent FAQ
A: Children are placed in foster homes because they have been removed from their own families due to abuse, neglect, or other family problems that may endanger them. Their ages range from infancy through 18 years old, although, developmentally disabled foster children may be as old as 21. There are foster children that belong to every ethnicity and race. Some children are placed alone, while others are part of a group of brothers and sisters who need to be placed together. Typically, children in foster care have special medical, physical or emotional needs.
A: There are many different factors taken into consideration when matching a child(ren) with a foster family. County and private agencies, like Caring for Kids, Inc., work together to find homes that best suit each child’s individual needs. A successful match between a child(ren) and a foster family can make all the difference in his/her life. Factors considered may include the capacity limitations of the foster family’s home, other children living in the home, if the child has siblings, the ability of the foster parent(s) to meet the child’s specific needs, whether or not the child has been previously placed in foster care and any special needs the child may have.
- Anticipated length of stay
- Health and medical history of the child
- Physical and/or behavioral problems
- The child’s relationship with his/her parents
- School and educational background
- A visitation plan
- Welcome the child(ren) with some kind of activity, when appropriate.
- Offer them something to eat. Let the child(ren) know if they can help themselves to food or if they need to ask first.
- Provide them with the name you want to be called. Don’t make “Mom” and “Dad” mandatory, consider other alternatives.
- Allow the child(ren) to unpack in their own time. Offer to help or simply let them know where to put their things, whenever they are ready to unpack.
- Provide the child(ren) with a place to keep personal possessions.
- Let them know it is all right to put a picture of their family or previous foster families in their bedroom. Stress that you understand how important these people are to them.
- Be sensitive to their feelings. Ask permission before hugging or touching.
- Avoid doing anything that conveys, “You’re not okay the way you are.” For example, do not try to change the child(ren)’s hair or clothing.
- Help the child(ren) settle into a regular routine as quickly as possible, but do not be disappointed if they do not respond right away.
- Give the child(ren) opportunities to talk to you, but do not pry into their past or criticize their parents.
- Respect their right to privacy. Never talk about a child when they are present, unless it is appropriate to include them in the conversation, for example, “Ms. Wilson, Andrew is doing so well at his new school!” This applies to conversations with agency workers, friends, or other children.
- Help them develop a sense of pride and accomplishment by giving them tasks within their abilities. Let the child(ren) know regularly how much you appreciate their help around the house.
- Praise them for little things.
- Use positive techniques, versus punishments, to help them learn to manage their behavior.
- Never threaten a child who misbehaves with removal from your home.
- Ask the child(ren) what they think foster care is and what they expect from you as a foster parent. Don’t make children answer if they choose not to respond. Give them time.
A: Yes, absolutely! Like all children, foster children need limits and boundaries. Often times “rules” are informal and unspoken, however, for a new person entering your family’s world, it is often helpful to be given some basic family rules. Before any child enters your home, your family should sit down together to discuss the way you live on a daily basis, and ask yourselves what a new person would need to know in order to become a part of your family. After explaining the house rules to the child(ren), it is helpful to post a list on the refrigerator or provide an age appropriate handout. Foster children need to know that the rules in your house are consistent and predictable, this stability will help ease their adjustment and help them feel more secure.
- Praise and recognize decisions and activities related to positive parenting.
- Make scrapbooks or photo albums containing mementos for the child.
- Construct a family tree or a Life Book with the child.
- Send parents a birthday or holiday card.
- Discuss the child’s school activities/functions/conferences, social activities, relationships, behavior, health, social development, holiday plans, etc.
A: Foster parents are expected to provide all routine transportation for their foster child(ren). This might include trips to the department store, library, school, or extracurricular activities. We understand, however, that foster children may have transportation needs that go beyond the routine, such as increased visitation with the birth family prior to reunification, psychiatric appointments, or special treatments. Transportation that is beyond the routine is eligible for reimbursement from Caring for Kids. Please contact our office for information regarding transportation and mileage reimbursement.
A: If the child(ren)’s permanency goal is adoption and no relatives are interested, as the foster parent, you are entitled to have the opportunity to adopt the child(ren). The child(ren)’s permanency goal may already be adoption or it may change to adoption if/when the expectant parents surrender their parental rights. A child may also become available for adoption if the custodial agency took the case to court to terminate parental rights or if both biological parents have died. In any case, the child must be legally freed for adoption before an adoption can be finalized.
We highly recommend that foster parents be dually certified for foster care and adoption. County agencies are beginning to become very selective with first time placements of younger children. For families who are ultimately interested in adopting a younger child from the public system, being open to a foster or foster-to-adopt placement may be your quickest route to receiving a placement.
A: You should call a Caring for Kids’ social worker with any problems or concerns you may have. Our social workers are responsible for assessing the service needs of the child(ren) and for keeping the custodial agency informed of the child(ren)’s situation. If you need help with handling a problem, are concerned about a child’s behavior, or need information about services do not hesitate to call our office. We also encourage foster parents to inform our social workers when something positive happens. We are here to put you at ease as well as celebrate each child(ren)’s victories, no matter how big or small!
A: Yes, having pets in the home is okay, however, all pets need to be up to date on their immunizations. In addition, foster parents should take special care to orient foster children to the animals on their farm or in their home. The children should be introduced to any restrictions involving their interaction with the animals right away.
A: Yes, according to Internal Revenue Code section 131. If you are providing foster care and receive qualified foster care payments, you do not need to list them as part of your gross income. Therefore, yes, they are exempt from income tax.