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Questions about Foster Care

More information:  See the Listing of Adoption and Foster Care Information Nights.

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  1. What is a foster parent’s role?
  2. What types of children do foster parents care for?
  3. What are the qualifications for foster parenting?
  4. What is the licensing procedure?
  5. Do foster parents receive financial help?
  6. Do you have to be married?
  7. Can I work or do Foster Parents have to be at home?
  8. How about medical coverage?
  9. How many children can we take into our home?
  10. Don’t Foster Children have lots of problems?
  11. What kind of support is available for foster parents—are we alone in this?
  12. What is the average length of stay in a foster home?
  13. Are foster parents ever able to adopt their foster child?
  14. Don't foster parents get attached to their foster children and have a difficult time with their leaving?
  15. Are there any other ways, short of being a foster parent, that I can help?
  16. What are the rewards of foster parenting?
  17. How much need is there for foster parents?
  18. Who should I call for more information?

1. What is a foster parent’s role?

Foster parents are licensed by the Department of Children, Youth and Families to care for children who must temporarily leave their parents’ homes. Many of these children have been abused and neglected and are removed from their homes for their protection. Others need alternative care because their families are experiencing a crisis or because the needs of the children can not be met within the home. The length of stay in a foster home can vary from several days to a year or longer.

In most cases, DCYF will be working with parents to help them resolve their problems so that children who are in placement can be returned home as soon as it is possible to do so safely. Foster parents are DCYF's major resource for children who need to be placed outside the home. It is the role of foster parents to offer a safe and stable home to these children, while working with the agency to prepare them for their return to their parents.

The quality of care children get while they are away from their homes is crucial. In addition to the problems that caused these children to enter foster care, each of them will suffer from the trauma of being separated from their family. Most foster children blame themselves because they have to leave home. Some fear that all adults are abusive. Some have kept secrets for so long that they may have a difficult time being open and honest. Many of them do not view the world as a friendly or caring place. Becoming part of a nurturing foster family can help these children to grow and heal. Since trust and change evolve slowly, foster families need to have tolerance, patience and flexibility.

Foster parents tend to a child’s daily needs and help him/her to adjust to their home and family. Each child will have a social worker who will help the foster parents provide the medical, educational, and additional supportive help the child needs to adjust. Social workers coordinate the effort to reunite the child and the family through the provision of regular, frequent visitation and any counseling or therapy that is recommended.

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2. What types of children do foster parents care for?

The only thing that all foster children have in common is that they have been separated from their parents. There are children of all ages, from infancy through adolescence, in need of foster homes. Their behaviors may be more difficult and extreme than what foster parents are used to. Many children will need counseling. Some will have developmental delays and disabilities, behavioral problems, or medical problems that require special attention.

Foster parents can specify what age, sex, and race child they are interested in caring for. DCYF makes an effort to match children with foster homes that can best meet their needs. Prospective foster parents will be given as much information as possible so that they can decide if their family is a good choice for a particular child. Each foster home is licensed for a limited number of children. Most licensed foster homes have between one and two foster children.

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3. What are the qualifications for foster parenting?

You must be at least 21 years old, physically able to care for a child, and have a home that can pass a fire inspection. You may own or rent your home and there are no minimum income guidelines. Your background must be free of child abuse and neglect and serious police charges.

The Department does not discriminate on the basis of gender, marital status, religion, race, or sexual preference. Your family history, current situation, child rearing abilities, and discipline techniques will all be explored. DCYF is looking for foster parents who have the special qualities needed to make a firm commitment to nurture a child for as long as that child needs a home.

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4. What is the licensing procedure?

It begins with a call to our foster parent recruiter. She will answer your questions and follow up by sending you an application package. When these forms are returned, clearances will be done through the Attorney General's Office and DCYF. Additionally, you must make arrangements with to have your fingerprints taken for a nationwide criminal background check. After the clearances are completed, you will be assigned to a licensing worker who will visit you and conduct a home study. A fire inspection will be arranged. You will also need to complete a nine week foster parent orientation program that will introduce you to foster parenting. This consists of attending classes evening a week, for three hours, for nine weeks, for a total of twenty-seven hours. All of these steps are necessary in order to become licensed as a foster parent. The whole process may take several months to complete.

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5. Do foster parents receive financial help?

DCYF reimburses foster parents for the child's expenses. The standard daily board rate for a child ages birth - 3 is $14.39; ages 4-11 is $13.64; and ages 12 and older is $15.79. Children with very special needs may be reimbursed at a higher rate. DCYF also covers all of the foster child's medical expenses, will pay for child care for the foster child if the foster parents are working, and provides clothing allowances.

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6. Do you have to be married?

The Agency encourages and recruits people who are married or single, with or without children, same sex parenting partners.

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7. Can I work or do Foster Parents have to be at home?

Foster Parents can work. DCYF will pay for daycare for the foster child as long as it is licensed daycare center or certified child care home.

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8. How about medical coverage?

All of the foster child’s medical needs are covered either through the biological parent’s medical insurance, Medicaid or a combination of the two.

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9. How many children can we take into our home?

We will tell you to take one child and do it well for a year. This is a tough job and your life will change so this allows you and your family to adjust and see how things are going.

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10. Don’t Foster Children have lots of problems?

Our children certainly have many challenges. Their lives are impacted by loss and separation from their families, abuse and neglect, developmental delays, realities of life that we can’t even imagine.

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11. What kind of support is available for foster parents—are we alone in this?

No you are not alone-you will enter into a partnership with social workers, other DCYF staff and the birth parents committed to what's in the best interest of the child. We will provide you with 9 weeks (27 hours) of foster parent pre-service training and ongoing in-service training. There is also Foster Forward which provides support to foster parents through a 24 hour help hotline, newsletter, social activities, a foster parent town meeting and a mentor support group to new foster parents.

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12. What is the average length of stay in a foster home?

The average length of stay is about 14 months, although some children stay for very short lengths of time and other children may stay for longer periods. Many factors can effect the length of a child’s stay in foster care - the parents’ progress in mandated services; the availability of relatives or non-offending parents able to care for the child; court activity and findings;

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13. Are foster parents ever able to adopt their foster child?

For the vast majority of children in foster care, their case plan goal is reunification with their parents and the department is mandated to work with the parents to offer them the services necessary to enable them to provide a safe and nurturing home for their children. If the parents fail to accomplish the necessary steps to have their children safely returned, the department can petition family court for termination of parental rights. If the termination of parental rights petition is granted and the children are freed for adoption, foster parents are typically given first chance at adopting the child if they are interested in doing so.

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14. Don’t foster parents get attached to their foster children and have a difficult time with their leaving?

Yes, but foster parents know from the beginning that the goal is to have the children returned safely to their parent’s care. While it may be sad to have the child leave, foster parents take great joy and satisfaction from knowing that they helped a family in need, that they provided the child with a safe and nurturing home while they were unable to live with their parents, and that the positive experiences they shared with the child will be part of the child’s life forever.

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15. Are there any other ways, short of being a foster parent, that I can help?

Yes! You can help us publicize the need for foster parents; you can donate items or organize drives for the Cribs. Beds, & Clothes Program; You can volunteer through Foster Forward.

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16. What are the rewards of foster parenting?

Helping others in times of need is a Rhode Island tradition. Foster parents help families in crisis by providing a stable, nurturing home for children who can not remain with their parents. Watching these children grow and thrive in your home while their families heal can be the most rewarding aspect of fostering. Many foster parents say that when a child or parent later tells them "You really helped me when I needed it most," they know they made the right choice in deciding to be a foster parent. Foster parents truly can make a difference in the lives of children and families.

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17. How much need is there for foster parents?

The need is tremendous! There are more children, of all ages, who need foster homes than there are homes to place them in. The Department especially needs African American, Latino, Native American, and Southeast Asian foster homes so children can receive care in culturally and racially consistent environments.

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18. Where can I get more information?

Call Robin Perez at 401-528-3791, or email her at robin.perez@dcyf.ri.gov. Thank you for your interest in fostering!

You can also visit the Foster Forward website at www.fosterforward.net.

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DCYF, 101 Friendship Street, Providence, RI 02903-3716  **(401) 528-3502
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     All content © 2006 DCYF -- Last modified: Feb 21, 2014