If you’re considering fostering, you may wonder if you would be good at it. There are many different things you have to consider before applying. I have several friends that are currently fostering and I interviewed them for this information. A lot of these qualities were ones that I kept hearing over and over again. I have made a list that will hopefully give you an idea of whether you have what it takes or not.
While this article mainly focuses on personality qualities, there are also legal qualifications that first must be met before even considering becoming a foster parent. While the rules will vary from state to state, here are some of the most common qualifications:
•Provide the name, address and phone number of seven references.
•Applicants and persons 18 years and over living in the home must be able to pass a criminal background screening as well as a child abuse database screening.
•No one living in the home may have a prior felony record or record of any misdemeanors involving any sexual offenses, pornography, prostitution, domestic violence, or child abuse.
•Must be able to meet standards established by Licensing (Home Study).
•Verification of stable income, sufficient to meet the needs of the family.
•Foster Parents shall keep confidential information shared by the agency and shall sign a statement of confidentiality at the time of licensure.
•Foster Parents shall provide routine transportation. Drivers shall have a valid Nevada Driver’s License and proof of automobile insurance.
•Foster Parents may not use corporal (physical) punishment.
•Patience and ability to make a commitment to children in need.
Source: Arkansas Department of Human Services
While you may already be a parent and have a general idea of how to keep your home childproofed, it’s a whole different ballgame when fostering. While fostering you will have visits to your home before you’re approved and from then on while your home is open to foster. This list may seem long and scary but the social workers with DHS will help you and give you time to complete the items on the list.
Home Safety Requirements
•Space must be adequate to promote health and safety. Each bedroom should have at least 50 square feet of space per occupant..
•All water hazards and dangerous pets will be assessed. Safeguard measures will be implemented, as appropriate.
•Children of opposite sexes will have their own separate bedrooms if either child is four years old or older, except for a mother in foster care with her child(ren).
•Water must be provided by public water system or approved by the Department of Health.
•As second-hand smoke is detrimental to children’s health, DHS policy is that children shall not be placed in foster or adoptive homes that permit smoking in the presence of children in care. In rare circumstances (e.g., relative placement), a waiver may be granted for smoking foster or adoptive homes if it is in a child’s best interest to be placed there.
•Designated spaces for living, dining, food prep and storage; separate spaces for sleeping and bathing
•Stable supply of heat provided to rooms being occupied
•Mirrors and other wall attachments fixed securely to walls (bookshelves, TVs)
•Extension cords in good repair
•Outlets covered and not overloaded
•Electrical appliances and cords out of young children’s reach
•Exits and stairways gated or otherwise secured for infants and young children.
•Rugs and other moveable floor coverings safely secured.
•Matches and lighters inaccessible to children.
•Cleaning materials stored in locked cabinets, inaccessible to children.
•Knives, scissors and other sharp instruments kept out of reach of young children.
•Cords on blinds and drapes constructed without loops and kept out of reach of young children.
•TVs on tables or stands fastened securely.
•Telephone access available. (Home phone for emergencies.)
•List of emergency numbers readily accessible.
•Smoke detectors working and located between bedrooms and the rest of the house.
•Written Fire Evacuation Plan established and regularly reviewed with all family members.
•Fire extinguisher in working order
•Carbon monoxide detectors located on bedroom level of the home.
•Fireplace screens or front guards in use; combustible deposits removed regularly.
•Infant cribs in compliance with government safety standards
•Separate bed with suitable mattress for each child.
•Bedrooms occupied by children do not have external door locks.
•Bedrooms occupied by children have an egress window.
•Clothing storage space available for child’s personal belongings.
•No bedroom is in a building detached from the home, in an unfinished attic or unfinished basement.
••Medications and other potentially hazardous pharmaceutical substances stored in locked cupboard, inaccessible to children
•Other potentially hazardous household substances (bleach, cleaning fluids, pesticides) stored in locked cupboard inaccessible to children.
•Swimming pools are properly secured with a locked gate.
•Pets have shots that are up-to-date.
•Potentially dangerous situations involving animals have been discussed and understood.
Source: Arkansas Department of Human Services
Qualities of Someone Who Would Make a Great Foster Parent
If you can pass the legal qualifications and home inspection and are still interested in fostering, here are some other important qualities to consider.
A Strong Social Support System
As you have probably heard over and over again, fostering is very challenging. Mentally, emotionally and physically. Some days you may need help taking a child to an appointment, other days you may need some spiritual encouragement after having a very stressful day with your foster child. Either way, having a strong support group is key to get you going. It’s important to find friends in the fostering community because they are the only people who will truly understand what it is you are going through and can offer sound advice.
Being flexible is very important. While you may think that you can request to foster a seven year old little girl, who has no issues and you would like them to be at your house by 6 PM next Tuesday, that is NOT going to happen. More than likely what WILL happen is while you’re in a meeting at work or in a deep sleep at 3am, a DHS worker will call and say “We have a three year old and six year old. They come from abusive home and have some behavioral issues. Can we drop them off right now?” I know that it sounds difficult and it is. Believe me though, it’s WAY harder for the children who are being taken away from their parents out of nowhere.
The Ability to be Honest and Open
When you start the application process to foster, DHS is going to want to know everything about you and I do mean EVERYTHING. They do background checks, they interview at least 5 personal references, they look at your driving record and go through every inch of your home. If you are someone who is more private, this is going to be really hard to do. DHS will also CONSTANTLY be in contact with you once you have a child in your home. Whether its a phone call or randomly dropping by to check on you and the child. You must be ok with being open an honest with DHS.
The Willingness to Learn
Many of the children in the foster system have may have special needs as a result of neglect of the parent, drugs, physical abuse and health problems. While you are not expected to be an expert on children’s psychology and health, it is important that you try and learn as much about it as you can. This will help you to be a better parent and help the children live better lives.
Patience is so very important when it comes to being a foster parent. It takes a child a long time to “warm up to you”, if they even do, which they may not. You might have a child with some serious behavioral issues and not notice any positive changes for months. It won’t be an overnight fix. You are having to deal with kids who have had very bad lives and as a result, might not have the best opinion of the world and be very hard to deal with at times.
The Ability To Commit
Many foster parents state that it took them over a year and half to get their first child after starting their application process. The application process is long, boring and difficult. It’s very possible that you have a strong desire to foster but after 7 months of paperwork, it might seem a lot easier to just give up. Please don’t. This is all worth it. These children need someone who can commit to take care of them and love them because many of them have never had that before.
Do you think you have what it takes?
If you do, I strongly encourage you to go on with the process. This road isn’t easy but it will all be worth it in the end.