What are the steps to becoming a foster parent?
Once we decided to become foster parents (all during the decision-making process, really), we talked with as many people as we could about the process. We wanted to know as much up front as we could find out. When we were ready to begin the process, I filled out an information contact form on a local licensing agency’s website. (I’ll talk more about that organization tomorrow!)
So here are the steps we took to get our license! (Please remember, these are the steps required in our state of South Carolina. Specific requirements may vary by state.)
Step 1: Have an initial meeting with a licensing worker. Our worker has been invaluable throughout not only the licensing process, but all throughout fostering. She came to our house one evening and we spent a little time getting to know each other. She talked us through all the details of the process and left us with a stack of well-organized paperwork.
Step 2: Fill out and submit paperwork. This sounds way more overwhelming than it actually is. The first page of the packet is a checklist that carefully outlines each piece of information that needs to be submitted. Examples of paperwork include:
* Autobiography: family background information about each applicant
* Home Study: background info, discuss values, decide what age, gender, etc. of child would fit best in your home
* Disaster Preparedness Plan: info about where you’d go if something disastrous happened to your home
* Forms for background checks
* Release form for driving record
* Discipline Agreement: no corporal punishment for children in foster care
* Supply copies of drivers licenses, auto insurance proof, social security cards, marriage license, and financial statements
* Checklist of what children are best suited for your home (age, gender, special needs, etc.)
Step 3: Get physicals, get fingerprinted, have a fire marshall inspection, and have a DHEC inspection. The fire marshall will measure the windows in the room where the children will sleep to make sure there is a 5 square feet opening (if it’s a first floor window. A 5.7 square foot opening is required for a second floor window.) He will also check to make sure there are interconnected smoke detectors in each bedroom, as well as a fire extinguisher located near the central area of the home and a fire escape plan hanging where it can easily be found. We keep ours on the fridge and our fire extinguisher in the pantry. The DHEC inspection will verify that all chemicals are locked away (we keep our cleaning supplies in the laundry area) and make sure that the house is generally clean and tidy.
Step 4: Attend 14 hours of training classes. This was two Saturdays, for us.
Step 5: All paperwork and information is combined into one packet by your licensing worker, which is then sent to the state level to be approved and for a license to be generated.
Step 6: Accept your first foster placement! (For us, this happened about two hours after our license had been signed. It wasn’t even mailed to us yet! More on this later…)
Overall, this process was so smooth for us. Our licensing worker has about 25 years experience at our licensing organization, and she is on the ball! She keeps very detailed records and was always quick to let us know when we could take the next step and move forward. We filled out our application in February/March of 2015, and received our license in July 2015. It usually takes about 4 months to be licensed, so we were right on track.
Tomorrow, I’ll be sharing about our licensing organization. Come back to hear all about our experience!