Steps to Becoming a Foster Parent
Updated: Jan 6
It’s a New Year, 2023, and this is the year YOU have decided you are ready and able to think about becoming a short term foster parent.
Perhaps you just sent the last of your children off to college. Perhaps, your baby just became potty-trained, or perhaps you just retired and are looking for a way to connect and give back to your community in the most rewarding way! This article will guide you through the steps you can take to prepare for becoming a short term foster parent from choosing an agency to work with, to prepping your family and home for your first placement.
Choosing the right agency
Maybe the most important step in becoming a short-term foster parent is choosing the right Child Placing Agency to work with. Quality Youth Services (QYS) is licensed by the State of Utah to place youth aged 12-21 years old into short-term foster families that we have trained to care for this vulnerable population.
Things to consider when choosing an agency should be:
What is the agency's mission statement and does it align with your personal goals and values? Quality Youth Service’s mission is to strive to provide a safe and healthy environment where our clients and their families, our staff and proctor families, are all catalysts of positive change in our community.
How will my foster agency prepare me for my first placement? Quality Youth Services will provide foster families with over 40 hours of pre-placement training in their home or in an office setting. Foster families will be first aide and CPR certified at no cost to them and will feel confident in their ability to care and supervise the youth in their home prior to their first placement.
What kind of support will I receive from my foster agency AFTER I receive my first placement? Quality Youth Services offers a team of support around every youth placed in one of our foster homes. Foster families will be assigned a Treatment Coordinator, who will act as their point person, for any and all questions regarding the youth in their home. The client’s treatment team will consist of the Treatment Coordinator, a therapist, a caseworker, and the foster parent. QYS also has “Youth Mentors” that can provide additional support to foster families and youth such as transportation and school help. Foster parents will be able to use our 24 on-call worker who is trained to deal with any emergency, at any time of day, to help support families in their home after office hours.
Choosing the right clients
Now that you have chosen an Agency you can trust, you need to think about what type of youth you will be willing to take. Is there an age range, gender, or issue you may have some insight into that would make you the perfect fit for someone?
Things to consider when thinking of the clients you may take on:
Do you have a preference for the sex/gender of the youth? While young boys make up the lion’s share of the foster care population, young girls have a harder time finding suitable placements in Utah due a lack of availability of options for female foster youth. While each gender comes with their ups and downs, you should decide what gender will fit best in your family. Perhaps you have raised 4 boys and feel your family has a special ability to connect with males. Or perhaps you are a member of the LGBTQIA community or ally and would be a great fit for a non-binary or trans youth. Or perhaps you have no preference at all!
Do you have pets in your home? Simply having pets may mean you are not the right fit for some youth due to allergies. But, if you do have animals, most foster youth love the company of family pets. Consider how your pets interact with new people and what ages would be appropriate to spend time with the animals in your home.
Do you have any age preferences for the youth placed in your home? When thinking about the age range of the youth you will accept into your home, you should consider whether or not you have children of your own in the home. Some foster parents prefer to have foster youth placed in their home that are similar to their own children’s ages so that there are some similarities between the two, such as the extra-curricular activities they engage in, the school they attend, and the issues they face for that age, and the rules they will follow. Other foster families like to take placements that are different from their own children's’ ages because they felt it decreased direct comparisons between foster and biological children, and allowed the family to focus on one child at a time due to their differing needs.
Preparing your home
The State of Utah sets the requirements for home preparation for a short-term foster placement, and a good foster care agency will help you meet these requirements prior to receiving your first placement. While the majority of the rules and regulations for foster homes are common-sense safety protocols, some may be outside the norm of an everyday home.
When preparing your home consider the following:
Foster youth are not allowed to share a bedroom with foster parents or foster siblings, but they may share a bedroom with another foster you of the same gender. Bedrooms for foster youth must include a window that opens, a door that latches, and a minimum of 40 square feet of space. They must be provided a bed with clean linens and their bedrooms should be comparable to other bedrooms in the home.
Ensure you have a working smoke detector and Carbon Monoxide detector on each floor of the home. This includes basements, and second levels.
Ensure alcoholic beverages are monitored and inaccessible to youth at all times
Purchase a lock box or locking cabinet to store household chemicals/cleaning products or personal medications.
Purchase a gun safe if you have firearms and ensure they are inaccessible to youth at all times.
Ensure all bathrooms have the ability to be locked and make sure you have the ability to unlock them from the outside if necessary.
Preparing your schedule
The quickest way to feeling burnout is to not leave time for yourself and the things you love to do. Think about your daily, weekly and monthly schedule prior to beginning to foster to see what routines are important to you, and what aspects of your schedule can be altered to allow for a new youth to join your home. Try writing out a schedule for a few weeks to get into the practice of creating a predictable routine--and don’t forget to include periods of self-care to recharge the mind and body. Also, consider where in your schedule you could easily incorporate a foster youth, perhaps your evening walk would be better with a little company! While fostering youth in your home is going to change certain things about your life, by having a clear routine set in place beforehand, you can rest assured that the youth entering your home has a clear view of how things are run and they will appreciate your predictability!
Completing the application
Now that you have found the right Child Placing Agency that is the best fit for you, it is time to complete the foster parent application. This application is available on our website at https://www.qualityyouthservices.com/foster-care. The application is 100% digital and secure to safely collect your sensitive personal information.
The application will walk you through each of the following sections to complete:
Current employment information
Estimated household income
Marital Status and spouse information
Information about children in the household
Information about anyone over 18 living in the household
Information on any criminal offenses
Smoke detectors in the home
Screenings for lead paint completed
Drinking water tests completed
Four personal references
After submitting the application, you will be contacted within 48 hours by the Quality Youth Services Program Director, Becky Otsuka, to schedule a phone or in-person interview to get to know you and your household better.
Support of family and friends
As part of the Foster Parent Application, applicants are asked to provide 4 separate personal references who can speak about you and your family/household. Only 1 of the 4 references may be related to you. After you provide the reference's contact information, they will be emailed a digital form asking them specific questions about you and your family to help the foster agency get an idea of how others perceive the family unit.
Some example questions that will be asked are:
For how long, and in what capacity, have you known the foster parent applicant?
What are the strengths of the family as you see them?
What kinds of stress have you seen the family deal with and how do they solve or handle stress?
Be sure to choose people who are familiar with you and how you are as a parent, such as a babysitter, church member, close family friend, or neighbor. Also, be sure to let your references know you have used their names and contact information so they look out for our email and promptly respond.
Complete Background checks
Every foster parent in the State of Utah must undergo a FBI background check that is preformed by Utah’s Office of Licensing. The FBI Background check looks for any criminal charges as well as for any Department of Child and Family Services referrals for abuse or neglect in all 50 states. A Criminal Record does not disqualify a person from being a foster parent, but more information regarding the charge may be requested such as the original court docket and the outcome of the case before applicants are approved by the Office of Licensing. Here at Quality Youth Services, we believe in the rehabilitation of people and their ability to change for the better, or we wouldn’t be in this business!
Certain criminal charges that involve violence, or any substantiated claims of Abuse or Neglect will automatically disqualify an applicant. In addition to the foster parent(s) submitting to a background check, any other adult over 18 years old who lives in the home will also be required to submit to a background check such as adult children, roommates, and spouses.
Review your income
Per the State of Utah, foster families are not to be reliant on the reimbursement they receive for fostering youth in their home, meaning, families must have sufficient income to cover their expenses prior to fostering in order to be eligible for being a foster parent. Quality Youth Services meets this requirement by asking foster families to provide QYS with proof of income in the form of tax returns or paycheck stubs for household earners. Furthermore, foster parents complete a short form that outlines their income and expenses to show that they are affording their lifestyles without the additional reimbursement from the State for the care and supervision of foster youth in their home. Being a foster parent is not a job, and the money you receive from being a foster parent is not a paycheck, but a reimbursement for the costs you incur while caring for the foster youth; therefore, your reimbursement is not taxable by the IRS and may not be counted as your personal income for purposes of getting a loan, etc.