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Foster parents: The road to becoming a foster parent

Foster parents: The road to becoming a foster parent

Foster care is a vital tool that provides safety and care for children who are awaiting placement into permanent homes. The Children’s Bureau at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families indicates that, by the end of fiscal year 2020, there were an estimated 407,000 children in the foster care system.

It’s a reality thousands of American children face each year: their home environment is no longer safe or appropriate for their own well-being. A child welfare caseworker gets called in to see if the reports of abuse or neglect are legitimate. A therapist and pediatrician enter the picture to examine the child. If there is sufficient reason for concern regarding the health and/or safety of the child, a court will rule that the child be temporarily removed from the home.

So where does this child go from here? In many cases, to a foster family. Foster parents are trained, dedicated volunteers who have decided to open their homes and families to a child in need for as long as the courts deem it necessary. The goal is always to reunite the child with his original family, if possible.

In the meantime, though, the foster family is home for a child in need. And the difference foster parents can make in the life of a child is overwhelmingly positive.

The process of adopting a child is time-consuming. Many adoptive parents have waited years to adopt a child. The National Adoption Foundation, an organization that provides financial assistance to families looking to adopt, notes that adopting a child through foster care is the quickest form of adoption. That process typically occurs in three stages:
• Certification
• Placement and transition
• Severance to adoption

1. Certification
The NAF notes that the certification process varies by state. However, state processes share some common characteristics. For example, parents will be required to commit to training sessions that will help them learn how to care for a child who has very likely had some traumatic experiences in his or her past. Certification involves a home study as well. AdoptUSKids, a project operated by the Adoption Exchange Association that educates families about foster care and adoption, notes that all states require families applying to adopt a child to complete a home study. Caseworkers will conduct a home study and then file a final report, which will include a wealth of information about everything from a family’s background, its finances, education and employment histories, daily life routines, and parenting experiences.

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2. Placement and transition
Placement and transition is the next step after certification. In this stage, social workers work to find a child that matches the request of the prospective parents. Once a child is found, he or she will be placed with the parent. This stage of the process will be different for parents depending on their initial requests, and that will inform how the third step of the process goes.

3. Severance to adoption
Some parents request a child whose parental rights have already been severed, which means the child’s biological parents will not have a legal right to get their child back. Adoptive parents who do not submit such a request will be in a foster situation when a match is found. During that period, the biological parents will be informed of certain requirements they will have to meet in order to get their child back. If the parent fails to meet those requirements, the parental rights will be severed, at which point adoptive parents will begin the transition to adoption. For more information visit

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