As part of our life changes, we are considering fostering a child or a few. Why fostering? We went through IVF for our first child. Through that process, we now have an amazing son. That was over 4 years ago and our family has been 3 members for some time. We discussed undergoing IVF again but really have come to the conclusion that at this time it is not the way to grow our family. We also discussed adoption 4 years ago, though currently, I am not ready to take that long term commitment. This may not be the case in the future but it is right now, and that is ok.
Fostering seemed like a great solution. It is something we have always talked about over the last 6 + years. It is a way to provide some stability for a child dealing with a really tough situation that is no fault of their own and expand our family for short periods of time before returning the child back into their parents' custody.
While there are times people foster to adopt, adoption is not the goal of fostering. The goal of fostering is to help the child and their family eventually reunite. If that is not possible, then the child is up for adoption. Out of the almost 443,000 children in foster care in 2017, 49% were reunited with their family while 24% were adopted, 8% emancipated, 10% lived with a guardian, and 7% lived with a relative. Some people do foster to adopt, but it can be a tough road.
So what does it take to become a foster parent? Quite a bit. (All of the information I give you below is for the state of Tennessee. Your state's requirements may differ. )
Verifications upon verifications. They check your income, employment status, marital status, prior adoptions, birth certificates, health status (including all children in the home- gotta make sure they are vaccinated), and references (both family and friends). On top of that, there are home safety visits and a review of your expenses (easy enough for us personal finance folks, but maybe something most people have never looked at.). Why all the hoopla? Well, you are trying to take care of someone's kids. So by all means, verify away.
Fostering as a business plan?
Fostering would be a terrible plan for any person. Despite the stories you may hear, the money that comes from fostering is only to help offset some of the costs of having another child in your home. It is by no means a way to make a living. This is why everyone must undergo income checks and expense reports. The Department of Children's Services needs to make sure each foster parent can afford to have another child without adding undue stress.
So what is the board rate? In the state of Tennessee, the board rate for Foster Care is $25.38 for children ages 0 – 11 and $29.09 for children ages 12 and older. That is $761.40 and $872.70 a month, respectively. Considering the time it takes to care for a child, that comes out to about $1 per hour for the care of the child (estimating a 24 hour work day as may be needed for an infant.).
As part of the process, a thorough background check is needed. This includes fingerprints, local police records check, sex offender registry clearance, department of health abuse registry, and a Department of Children's Services records check.
Don't expect to become a foster parent if you have felony convictions for any crime against a child including abuse or neglect; domestic, family, or spousal violence; and any crime involving violence including rape, sexual assault, or homicide. If you have had physical assault or battery, a crime against a person, or drug/alcohol related offense in the last 5 years you cannot be approved.
This all makes sense to me because once again you are taking care of someone else's child. I agree that if you have abused a child or your spouse, you should not be allowed to care for a child. It is interesting that they forgive some crimes, but remember that some people are fostering their relatives and may also live in a difficult situation. If you make the process too unforgiving, then it may limit the pool of possible foster parents, especially relatives.
Another important step is the home check. It is pretty extensive and they cover a long list of things you need including a landline (I assume in case the kid needs to call 911), parental controls on your wifi (to avoid adult content), an fire evacuation plan, a locked cabinet for chemicals and medications, and each bed needs a box spring (not sure why this is as my son sleeps on a mattress on the ground more for safety than anything else), along with the typical household stuff (fire extinguishers, carbon monoxide monitors, etc.). The home visit is good for 2 years.
Along with all of that, you have to attend 8 classes for a total of 20 hours of classes. These cover understanding the role the foster parent, biologic parents, and the Department of Children's services have in caring for the child and dealing with childhood trauma, among other things. The final two classes are first aid training and medication administration but these can be waived for any medical professional. After the initial 20 hours, foster parents need to complete 15 hours of Continuing Medical Education.
What you don't need
You do not have to be married, in a relationship, or otherwise conform to a gender stereotype to be a foster parent. All comers are welcome. You do not have to be rich. You do not need to have a big home. So if you have thought about fostering and are not sure you will fit the bill, go to an informational class and see what it is all about.
So there you have it
For now, we are excited to go through the process. We may delay starting to foster for a few months until our 2-week stay in California is done this summer. We may also be specific about what age the child we foster is and how many behavioral issues they have, as our first priority remains to provide a stable environment for our son. I will let you know how things go.