Requirements for Foster Parents
Children who are placed in foster/adoptive homes are subject to standards set by state laws and regulations governing those homes. According to the regulations, a home study must evaluate the prospective foster/adoptive parent’s ability to address the child’s health and safety. Foster/adoptive homes must be in compliance with criteria concerning physical condition, safety, resources, character, motivation, and willingness to cooperate with the agency or district in providing services needed and carrying out the permanency plan.
The prospective foster/adoptive home must be evaluated and determined to meet basic physical, health and safety requirements. Homefinders visit prospective foster/adoptive parents at home and collect detailed information about the applicants, as well as other household members and potential caregivers for the child.
In general, prospective foster parents are asked about:
- Experience with raising children.
- Experience with issues of child abuse or neglect.
- Approach to discipline.
- Awareness of the importance of measures that provide a safe environment for children.
- Awareness of the potential impact of foster parenting on family members and the family’s current life style.
- Ability and interest in being a partner in carrying out the permanency plan.
Foster homes are “certified” (the term used for non-relative homes) or “approved” (the term used for relatives) according to the same standards.
A home study and evaluation of the members of the foster/adoptive family household or the relative’s family household must determine compliance with all of the following criteria for certification or approval:
Age: Each foster parent must be over the age of 21.
Health: Each member of the household of the foster/adoptive family must be in good physical and mental health and free from communicable diseases. However, physical handicaps or illness of foster/adoptive parents or members of their household must be in consideration only as they affect the ability to provide adequate care to foster children or may affect an individual child’s adjustment to the foster/adoptive family. Cases must be evaluated on an individual basis with assistance of a medical consultant when indicated. A written report from a physician on the health of a family, including a complete physical examination of the applicant, must be filed with the agency initially and biennially thereafter. Additional medical reports must be furnished upon the request of the agency worker.
Employment: Employment of a foster/adoptive parent outside the home must be permitted when there are suitable plans for the care and supervision of the child at all times, including after school and during the summer. Such plans must be made part of the foster/adoptive family record and must receive prior agency approval, unless only one of the two foster parents is working outside the home.
Marital Status: The marital status of an applicant may be a factor in determining whether or not a certification or approval will be granted only as it affects the ability to provide adequate care to foster children. Changes in marital status must be reported to the authorized agency; existing certificates or letters of approval may be revoked, and new certificates or letters of approval issued consistent with the best interests of the child.
Character: Each applicant for certification or approval must be required to provide the agency with the names of three persons who may be contacted for references. The agency must seek signed statements from these individuals attesting to the applicant’s moral character, mature judgment, ability to manage financial resources and capacity for developing a meaningful relationship with children, or interview the individuals in person.
Ability and Motivation: The agency must explore each applicant’s ability to be a foster parent and must discuss the following topics:
- The reasons a person seeks to become a foster/adoptive parent.
- The understanding of the foster/adoptive parent role, including the responsibilities of foster parents in relation to the child, the agency, and the family.
- The person’s concerns and questions about foster care services.
- The person’s psychological readiness to assume responsibility for a child and his/her ability to provide for a child’s physical and emotional needs.
- The agency’s role and authority to supervise the placement.
- The attitudes that each person who would be sharing living accommodations with the child in foster care has about foster care and his/her concept of a foster child's role in the family.
- The awareness of the impact that foster care responsibilities have upon family life, relationships, and current lifestyle.
- The principles related to the development and discipline of children and the need of each child for guidance, a supportive relationship, appropriate stimulation, and the opportunity to identify with a parent or surrogate whose history reflects a value system that is socially constructive.
- A person’s self-assessment of his/her capacity to provide a child with a stable and meaningful relationship.
Criminal History Record Check
As part of the required criminal history record check with the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), an agency must notify the prospective foster/adoptive parents and each person over the age of 18 who is currently living in the home of how to have their fingerprints taken and the agency must obtain the results of the criminal history record checks from OCFS before the foster parent is finally approved or certified for the placement of a foster child. At the time a foster parent applies for renewal of their approval or certification, the same process takes place for each person over the age of 18 who is currently living in the home who has not previously had a criminal history record check.
As part of the criminal history record check process, DCJS conducts a search of its database, as does the FBI. The fingerprints are kept on file at DCJS and the certifying/approving agency would be notified should there be an arrest or conviction reported in the future to DCJS. The fingerprints are not maintained by the FBI.
Depending on the types of crimes listed in the criminal history, several actions could be taken:
- The application is rejected.
- The foster/adoptive home is decertified.
- The foster child is removed from the foster/adoptive home.
- When a criminal history record of the foster/adoptive parent or any other person over the age of 18 who lives in the home reveals a charge or conviction of any crime, the agency must perform a safety assessment of the conditions in the home. This includes:
- Whether the subject of the charge or conviction lives in the household.
- The extent to which the individual may have contact with the foster child or other children living in the household.
- Status, date, and nature of the criminal charge or conviction.
The agency must take all appropriate steps to protect the health and safety of the child or children, including removal from the home or denial of the application. The agency must document the safety assessment and the steps and actions taken to protect the health and safety of the child.
Foster Parent Orientation
Foster parent orientation may take place as part of an individual session or in a group training program either at the agency or in the home. The Resource Family Application is reviewed and provided at this time. Once the completed application is submitted, the prospective foster/adoptive family may be eligible to register for the upcoming precertification meetings called GPS II/MAPP (Group Preparation and Selection II/ Model Approach to Partnership and Parenting or the Deciding Together program.
Completion of the Certification and Approval Process
Foster/adoptive parents are certified/approved when the following are completed:
- Participation in a Foster Care Program Orientation.
- Completed Resource Family Application.
- Receipt of State Central Registry Clearance.
- Receipt of Criminal History Record Review, including fingerprinting.
- Receipt of Medical Exam including a PPD (Mantoux Test).
- Receipt of Personal References.
- Home Inspection.
- Proof of Income.
- Marriage/Divorce Records (if applicable).
- Completion of GPS II/MAPP program or Deciding Together program.
- Completed Homestudy.
- Review and Approval by NACS’ Certification Panel.
What Kind of Training is Involved in Becoming a Foster Parent?
Agencies must provide training for foster parents to help them meet the needs of children in their care, receive information on technique in managing behavior and preventing abuse and neglect, and understand the expectations of the agency.
New foster parents need preparation and training to be effective in their role. Foster parents who have been accepted for a home study, or relatives who are in the process of a home study must be oriented to:
- The social, family, and personal problems that lead to family breakdown and the need for the placement of children.
- The problems and reactions of children upon separation, and the function and responsibility of the foster family in relation to the child, the parents, and the agency staff.
- The agency policy and practice to have defined goals to achieve permanency for each child entering the foster care system.
- The authority of the local social services districts, the Office of Children and Family Services, and the Family Court to supervise the agency's practice.
- The nature of the relationship of agency staff to foster parents and children, including definitions of the function and responsibility of the caseworkers assigned to the children and their families.
- The payments to foster parents for care and expenses; the definition of foster family care; and certification or approval of the home.
- The rights and responsibilities of a foster parent as defined by a letter of understanding that must be executed at the time of certification or approval.
GPS II/MAPP Training
Many counties and agencies use the Group Preparation and Selection II/Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting (GPS II/MAPP) Pre-Certification Program. Although it is not required by the Office of Children and Family Services, it is the recommended selection and preparation program.
The GPS II/MAPP approach to foster parenting encourages open communication and trust among foster families, adoptive families, birth families and casework staff.
The MAPP program examines 12 criteria or skills necessary for successful foster/adoptive parenting. Through role-playing, personal profiles, and other techniques, the Homefinder and the applicant make mutual decisions about foster parenting.
Objectives of the training for prospective foster and adoptive parents are:
- Learning what to expect and what services are available.
- Looking at one’s own strengths and needs.
- Developing skills in giving love and attention to a troubled child.
- Learning about stages of child development.
- Helping children manage behavior.
- Understanding the roles and responsibilities of teamwork.
- Helping foster parents develop a good understanding of the child's parents.
Additional Training for Foster Parents and Adoptive Parents
Additional training is available to support you in your role as a foster/adoptive parent. NACS may offer in-service training sessions for foster parents, arranged or conducted by staff, with guest speakers from community hospitals, schools, and local police and fire departments. Be on the lookout for such opportunities and ask your caseworker about them.
Special training may also be available. Medical and mental health training can help foster parents manage certain issues and learn skills in dealing with them. Issues could include: child and adolescent development and behavior; emotional effects of child abuse and neglect; caring for a teen parent and her infant; domestic violence; loss and separation; behavior management; effects of drug and alcohol abuse; and depression.
Appropriate training can support foster parents with skills in being sensitive to signs of emotional distress in children and skills in crisis counseling. Such knowledge should help foster parents feel more confident in their role.
Health education programs for foster parents are valuable in covering many topics: childhood health requirements (e.g. immunization schedule); common health problems and dealing with emergencies; proper administration of medication and taking of a child’s temperature; general infant, child, and adolescent health care issues; family planning and sex education; information on common chronic diseases (asthma, sickle cell anemia, diabetes, etc.); HIV/AIDS education, infection control, and universal precautions; fire safety training in the home; and nutrition and physical fitness.
Training is provided based on the needs of the foster/adoptive parents and scheduled throughout the year both at NACS and in the community.