Foster Care Questions and Answers
Caring for children is every society's most important job. Foster families play an essential role by providing homes for children whose own families are temporarily unable to look after them. Fostering is challenging and demanding. It requires love, patience, and strong parenting skills. What are the rewards? Foster parents say it is often the little things such as laughter, smiles or a few special words, and watching a child grow, learn and trust
What is fostering?
Fostering is caring for children who cannot live with their own families. The goal is for the children to return home when their parents are able to care for them.
Why do children come into care?
There are many reasons. Regrettably, there are birth parents who cannot safely or appropriately care for their children, and this can result in some form of trauma such as abuse, neglect or maltreatment. When this occurs, the children are removed and put in the custody of the local county department of social services. In other cases, families seek assistance from their local social services provider when they are unable to keep their child safe while living in the home community. The county finds foster placements for these children on a short or long-term basis. There is a critical need for foster families to be available to these children and to assist in the healing and recovery process.
How long will a child stay with me?
The stay will vary with the circumstances. Emergency care can be as short as 24 hours, while long-term placements can last a few years. Most placements are short-term and a large number of children return to their homes within 12 months.
Do all children in foster care return to their birth parents?
There are times, when for the safety of the children, they cannot return to their birth parents. When this happens, children remain in foster care until they become adopted or become of legal age (18+) and decide to live on their own - called independent living. Whichever the case, Parsons staff work with foster families to best prepare the children for their future.
Do I have a choice about who I foster?
Yes. If you like, you can specify that you choose to work with children of a certain age, gender, or ethnicity. Parsons staff will do our best to match you with these children. There are many times when we may ask you to consider taking other children if we cannot match a family to a child's needs. You always have the choice to receive a child or decline a request to care for a child in your home. The broader the range of children that you are able to care for, the greater the likelihood of having children placed with you.
How is the child's family involved?
It is important that family be involved in decisions concerning the child's life and care. The goal for most children in foster care is to return home. Where possible, children in care need ongoing contact with their families, and these relationships should be preserved and maintained. The treatment plan will determine the contact between the foster parents and the birth parents. Foster parents are active participants in the development of the treatment plan.
What are my responsibilities?
As a foster parent, you are part of a team that includes your Parsons social worker, the child's social worker, the child's own family, the county case worker, and sometimes, other community workers. Together you work to return the child to his/her family whenever possible. Your responsibilities are:
- To give the child a safe home, adequate meals, clothing, and accommodation (including a bed for each child). You must provide a warm, nurturing family environment, with guidance and supervision that responds to the child's individual needs.
- To work cooperatively and in partnership with the child's worker and any other professionals involved with the child, and to inform them of any important developments that affect the child.
- To meet regularly with your worker, and tell them about any changes in your home. Your worker will need to know if you are planning to move to another home, for instance, or if a relative or some other person is coming to live with you.
- To ensure regular contact between the child and his/her family and cultural community, where this is appropriate. You and the child's social worker will plan and arrange these contacts together.
Child care is always a concern and is the responsibility of the foster parents. When you are not available, arrangements must be made for appropriate child care. Because of the traumatic histories of the children in foster care, Parsons requires child care providers to be of age 21 or older and have no history of indicated reports of child abuse and/or maltreatment. Most child care providers need to be registered or licensed through the state. There are some funds available to foster parents employed outside of the home to cover daily child care.
In addition, foster parents are required to transport children to meetings at Parsons, medical and dental appointments, visits with family, etc. In general, you should expect to make one or more trips a week to Parsons. Parsons reimburses foster parents for mileage accumulated in transporting children to required meetings. In addition, foster parents are expected to provide transportation for the children in their care for regular and routine purposes (e.g., shopping, recreation).
How does Parsons help me as a foster parent?
- financial assistance to cover room, board and clothing allowance
- mileage reimbursement for required meetings and appointments
- health care coverage for medical and dental needs of the children
- 24-hour on-call services
- professional training
- support network of other foster parents and child care professionals
Why does Parsons have different types of foster care?
The needs of the children referred to Parsons are very different. Some children require more intensive services, supports and supervision than others. Some children require placement on an emergency basis, while others are expected to remain in a foster care home for an extended period of time. Because of these situations, Parsons has developed different levels of foster services which are recognized by the state of New York.
How do I become a foster parent?
Anyone 21 years or older who wants to share their home with a child in need can apply. Single people, couples and families-with or without children-can all become foster parents.
It is not necessary to own your own home, and your financial situation need not be a barrier. Foster parents must have the maturity to carry out the day-to-day duties and responsibilities of maintaining a safe home.
The approval process starts with an information meeting where you discuss fostering with a worker and a foster parent. Many times, these are group meetings and are scheduled on a regular basis. You will be given an application asking for in-depth information about you and your family. After an application is received and reviewed, you will be interviewed by a family development specialist, usually a social worker.
Prior to being approved as a foster parent, you will be required to attend a pre-certification program to help you prepare for the challenges of fostering. In addition, you will be required to provide satisfactory documentation for certification and pass a psychological screening. A social worker will visit you in your home to talk about your application, your personal history, interests, lifestyle, child care experience, and the type of child you feel can best be helped in your home.
You, and anyone 18 years or older living in your home who might supervise children in care, will be required to undergo a criminal history investigation, which includes fingerprinting, and to be cleared through the State Central Registry for any history of child abuse and/or maltreatment.
Does everyone who applies to become foster parents become certified?
No. Some applicants decide that foster care or adoption is not appropriate for them. This decision can be made independently by the applicants or in discussion with Parsons' family development specialist social workers. The pre-certification process gives time for the applicants and Parsons staff to make an informed decision about becoming foster parents.
Does Parsons ever deny people becoming foster parents?
There are circumstances that will prevent Parsons from completing the certification process. In such situations, Parsons will not be permitted to cerify an applicant to become a foster parent. As soon as these circumstances become evident, Parsons staff will make every effort to clarify this situation with the applicant.
What if someone is already certified to do foster care with another agency?
If you are already certified by another agency, it is preferred that you first speak with the agency you are certified with about your interest in Parsons. Regulations allow certification with only one agency at a time. It is your responsibility to the agency with which you are certified to inform them of your reasons for possibly wanting to change agencies. Parsons will not process an application from a certified foster parent until the foster parent has spoken with the agency that has certified them.
How much are foster parents paid?
There is a daily stipend or board rate for each level of care. The stipend is per child. The rates vary with the type of care provided. This stipend is not considered income for the foster parents. The foster care office can provide further details.
Will I be allowed to adopt children in my care if they become eligible?
Under New York State Social Services Law, foster parents who have fostered a child for a period of one year are to be given the first consideration to adopt that child should the child become free for adoption. In addition, first priority for accepting applications for adoption is given to foster parents who are caring for a foster child who becomes free for adoption. The choice to adopt, however, is the decision of the foster parents. Parsons has many foster families who choose to provide only foster care services to children.
What if I'm only interested in adoption and not caring for foster children?
Parsons has options for people who only want to adopt. Parsons has an International Adoption program for the adoption of infants and toddlers from other countries. For children ages 10 and older, Parsons can prepare an individual or couple to be a preadoptive resource for children in Parsons' programs who become available for adoption. Please call (518) 426-2868 to learn more about these options.
What other adoption resources are available?
Your local county Department of Social Services may have alternatives for you and can tell you about children in their care who are available for adoption.
Thank you for your interest in foster parenting. For more information about family foster care, call 518.426.2868 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.