Frequently Asked Questions

Why are children placed in foster care?

Children are placed in foster care either by order of a court (involuntary) or because their parents are willing to have them cared for temporarily outside the home (voluntary).

An involuntary placement occurs when a child has been abused or neglected (or may be at risk of abuse or neglect) by his or her parent or someone else in the household, or because a court has determined that the child is a “person in need of supervision” or a juvenile delinquent. The court orders the child removed from the home and determines the length of the placement.

A voluntary placement occurs when parents are temporarily unable to care for their child for reasons other than abuse or neglect. For example, the family is experiencing a serious medical, emotional, and/or financial problems. The parents sign a voluntary placement agreement that lists the responsibilities of the parents and the agency during the child’s placement. This is different than a voluntary surrender for adoption, whereby the parents voluntarily and permanently give up all parental rights and transfer “custody and guardianship” to an authorized agency.

What is the role of a foster parent?

As a foster parent, you are responsible for the temporary care and nurturing of a child who has been placed outside his or her own home. During a time of disruption and change, you are giving a child a safe and supportive home. At the same time, your role includes working with the caseworker and the child’s family so that the child can return home safely, when appropriate.

What are the roles of foster/adoptive parents?

The role of the foster parent is to:

  • Provide temporary care for children, giving them a safe, stable, nurturing environment.
  • Cooperate with the caseworker and the child’s parents in carrying out a permanency plan, including participating in that plan.
  • Understand the need for, and goals of, family visits and assist with those visits.
  • Help the child cope with the separation and loss of his or her home.
  • Provide guidance, discipline, a good example, and as many positive experiences as possible.
  • Encourage and supervise school attendance, participate in teacher conferences, and keep the child’s caseworker informed about any special educational needs.
  • Work with the agency in arranging for the child’s regular and/or special medical and dental care.
  • Work with the child on creating a Life Book – a combination of a story, diary, and scrapbook that can help children understand their past experiences so they can feel better about themselves and be better prepared for the future.
  • Inform the caseworker promptly about any problems or concerns so that needs can be met through available services.

What is a “permanency plan”?

As a foster parent, you are a continuing presence in the child’s life. You are familiar with the child’s personality and emotional and intellectual development since you care for him or her 24 hours a day.

Therefore, you can contribute valuable information about the child as you work closely with the caseworker/agency, participate in meetings about the child, and communicate with the parents. Foster parents are often the main source of information about how a child is adjusting to the separation from home, interacting with other children, and performing in school.

Even more important, you are a primary source of support for the child. When you have a positive, healthy relationship with your foster children, you help build their trust in adults. This helps prepare them for changes in their living situation that might be necessary to achieve their permanency goal. For example, they may return home or they may be adopted. As you continue to nurture the child day after day, you are helping to plan for his or her permanency.

Foster parents can help plan for permanency through parent-child visits, contacts with the caseworker, service plan reviews, court hearings and discharge activities.

What rights do foster parents have?

Foster parents have the right to:

  • Accept or reject a child for placement in their foster home.
  • Define and limit the number of children that can be placed in the foster home, within legal capacity.
  • Receive information on each child who is to be placed in the foster home.
  • Expect regular visits from the child’s caseworker to exchange information, plan together, and discuss any concerns about the child.
  • Participate in regular conferences in the foster home to discuss the child’s plan every 90 days or less as required (whenever necessary in times of crisis or emergency).
  • Receive notice of, and participate in Service Plan Reviews and Family Court permanency hearings on a child placed in their home.
  • Receive training on meeting the needs of children in care.

What kind of support do foster parents receive?

As a foster parent, you are part of a “team” working together for the sake of the family. Generally, the team consists of the foster parents, the birth parents, the child, the caseworker, and the law guardian. (In some cases, the birth parents may not be invited participants.) It may also include service providers, health care providers, and other family members. This means that you are not alone in caring for the child. You have support. It also means that you meet with the child's family in visits and case conferences, and you keep the caseworker up-to-date on how the child is doing.

Working as a team member makes sense. If you don’t meet the child’s parents, you may have an unrealistic picture of them in your mind. They may become jealous of you if they don’t get to know you. All of this might have a negative effect on the child. Children will feel better about themselves if they know that their parents and foster parents are talking to one another and trying to help them get back home.

How do I financially support a foster child?

Board rates

The monthly board rate, which is set according to the child’s age, is intended to reimburse foster parents for the cost of caring for the child. Foster parents receive schedules for the current board rate and for payment standards. County departments of social services set their own rates up to the maximum allowed.

There are three foster care payment categories for foster boarding homes: Basic, Special, and Exceptional. Basic foster care payments are made to foster parents who provide care for a child who has no identified special or exceptional needs.

Within 30 days of placement, your local agency may designate the child's needs as basic, special or exceptional. A designation can be changed at any point during placement as the child's needs change.

To receive special or exceptional payments, you will need to show your ability to care for children with special or exceptional conditions through past training and experience or by completing special training. You will need to participate in agency training every year and actively participate in case conferences. You must be able to work with the professionals involved in the child’s treatment plan and to accept assistance and guidance in caring for the child.

Special and exceptional rates need to be approved by the local department of social services. A caseworker can submit a request for the special or exceptional rate if deemed appropriate. If the level of difficulty changes (decreases or increases) due to the child's need for care and supervision, the board rate will also change. The services expected of the foster parents will also change.

Clothing allowances

County departments of social services set their own clothing allowance rates up to the maximum allowed. A regular clothing allowance, based on the child’s maximum age, is included with the board rate and is paid as a part of the monthly check. An emergency clothing allowance may be obtained in special situations.

Any clothing purchased for a child in care belongs to the child and should be taken along whenever he or she moves or is returned home. It is expected that a child will leave with sufficient, clean clothes.

A diaper allowance is automatically authorized for children from birth through three years of age and included in the board rate.

Health Care

Health Insurance is provided to children placed in foster care. Each child’s health insurance will vary based on the child’s circumstances. Foster parents are not responsible to provide a child placed in their foster home with health insurance. Foster parents must utilize medical service providers for the children within the child’s health insurance network, unless prior approval is obtained by the local department of social services. 

Child care

Some county departments of social services may make payments for day care, when necessary, for the care and supervision of children in care if the foster parent is employed full-time or part-time. Child care expenses for purposes other than employment are the foster parent’s responsibility. The daycare provider must be licensed by NYS OCFS, have a contract with the county of the child’s origin and be approved by the local department of social services.


The board rate includes the cost of normal transportation. Transportation over 50 miles to transport a child to visitation or medical appointments may be reimbursed by the local department of social services with prior approval. 

School-related expenses

School expenses, such as books, activity fees, costs of field trips, school club dues, and art supplies may be reimbursed with prior approval. Special attire for senior proms, graduation, school jewelry or pictures, or religious ceremonies may also be reimbursed. Tutoring expenses may be reimbursed if the service is remedial, requested in writing by the school and is not available from any other source.

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