Children of all ages and all ethnic and economic backgrounds need foster care. It is important to share that children in care are first and foremost children. They laugh, they love, they have pets, and they have best friends. These children regrettably have encountered very difficult circumstances in their own families related to abuse and neglect. Often they come from families who struggle with substance abuse and domestic violence. Like adults, children can be depressed, anxious, fearful, and angry. Some have emotional medical or developmental problems. Many have delayed social skills or special school needs. Foster parents are needed to care for approximately 50% of children who cannot be placed with relatives and need a loving family.
Like all kids, foster children need stability, comfort, and routine in their lives. Foster parents fulfill a vital role in ensuring that children are safe, nurtured to grow and thrive, and experience a sense of permanency in a world that may have previously appeared tattered, disjointed and confusing.
Foster parents are especially needed for:
- Older children and teenagers
- Children with special medical, emotional, developmental, and educational needs
- Drug-exposed infants
- Sibling groups
The Department of Family and Children’s services make every effort to place children in homes that will reduce the disruption and confusion in their lives and encourage eventual reunification with their family. At the same time, some children are unable to reunify with their parents and need a permanency family in which to grow up. This combination of primarily assisting children and parents to reunite while making contingency plans for permanence if reunification is not possible is called "Concurrent Planning." You'll work closely with the child’s social worker, your Resource Family Support Team member, the school, child advocates, therapists, and other professionals, as well as with the child’s family through supporting visitation with parents and the child’s relationships with extended family.
One foster parenting specialty is called Emergency Satellite Home care (ESH). ESH families receive children into their homes on very short notice after children are removed from their own families or after a placement hasn’t worked out. Some ESH families are prepared to be selected to provide ongoing care for a child as a part of Concurrent Planning if relatives are not identified for the child’s placement.
The Department of Family And Children’s Services does its best to match a child with a foster family that can best meet the child’s needs. Some foster parents prefer to work with teenage children or sibling groups, while others do better with young children or children with special needs. You can specify the age and gender of the child you prefer, and explore with social workers what children would best fit in with your family and your parenting interests.
It generally takes two to four months to be licensed, partly depending on the initial special training that all foster parents must take. The process to select a child for placement with you may take longer depending on your preferences and the needs of the children requiring placement.
Potential foster parents attend the Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education (PRIDE) pre-service training program. PRIDE explores basic "competencies" needed to be an effective foster parent. The program consisting of 27-hours of instruction covering topics such as, children’s attachments issues, grief and loss, discipline, effects of abuse and neglect, sexual abuse, and the effects of fostering and adopting on the family. Foster parents also complete first aid and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) pre-service training.
Fostering a child it is not the same as parenting a child born to you. You will need to talk with children placed in your home about their birth family and help them manage their feelings about being in foster care. The training and support we provide you will help you and the children make the placement successful. You also need training to learn how to work effectively with the child’s family and to know how to respond before and after a child visits the parents and other people important to the child, such as brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Foster parents are also expected to participate in 12 hours of in-service training every year. A variety of interesting and useful classes are offered.
Foster care applicants and the adults in their homes are checked for criminal and child abuse or neglect histories. Federal criminal records are checked, as are State criminal and child abuse and neglect records. In some cases, child abuse and neglect records in other states are also checked. Situations in which the applicant or an adult in the home has criminal or child abuse history are considered on an individual basis. Any conviction of crime against a child or a verified history of child abuse or neglect will very likely disqualify a person from being licensed.
Age requirements are flexible as long as your health status and energy level can keep up with the needs of a foster child and the activities in which the child in involved.
In addition to working closely with the child’s social worker, each foster family is assigned a Resources Family Support Team (RFST) member. The RFST member visits the foster family every month or more often to provide useful information and encouragement, as well as to advocate for the family and provide referrals to community services, respite care, and child care for working foster parents. Additionally, one member of the RFST is the Foster Parent Advocate, who works to ensure that any particular challenges foster parents encounter are addressed by the Department of Family and Children’s Services.
Federal and State foster care reimbursement programs provide funding for the care and supervision of foster children. Foster parents receive a monthly check. The rate paid varies depends on such factors as the age and then special needs of the child. Additional funding beyond the basic rate is available for foster families caring for sibling groups of 3 or more children, and for children with documented special needs. ESH families receive a daily reimbursement rate, which is currently $32.00.
Foster parents also benefit from the services and programs of the Kinship, Adoptive and Foster Parent Resource Center, which is located in the Department of Family and Children’s Services building in downtown San Jose. The Kinship, Adoptive and Foster Parent Resource Association is the parent organization for the Center; however, membership in the association (which is available for a very low fee) is not required to participate in the Center’s programs. In addition to being a being a site for much of the training provided for foster parents, the Center employs a director and resource specialist, maintains a recourse library and clothes closet, and in partnership with the Association, sponsors numerous special events for foster families throughout the year.
Other benefits for foster children include the following:
- Medical Coverage - Most foster children qualify for State medical insurance program, Medi-Cal, which pays for medical, dental, counseling and other health related expenses. Some children are covered by their parent’s insurance.
- Clothing Allowances - When a child first enters care, an initial clothing allowance is provided based on the age of the child. Although part of the monthly basic care and supervision rate is intended for the purchase of clothing, an annual clothing allowance is also provided and additional funding for clothing due to unusual or unforeseen situations may also provided.
- Child Care Program - A child care reimbursement program is available for working foster parents of young foster children.
- Respite Care Program - Foster parents can receive reimbursement for respite care to attend in service training, handle a family emergency or simply to take a "break" from the daily demands of parenting. Some foster parents find their calling in being respite care providers for their fellow foster parents.
- Sibling Supplement Program - Foster parents for sibling groups of 3 or more children may receive extra funding for each child every month, as well as assistance with preparing their homes for providing care to sibling groups of 3 or more.
- Liability Insurance - Santa Clara County provides liability insurance for foster parents for both property damage and bodily injury to third parties attributable to the actions of a foster child. In addition, it also provides limited insurance coverage if a foster child damages the foster parent’s property.
- Special Funds - The child’s social worker can request special funds to meet a foster child’s unique social, emotional and recreational needs.
After a child first enters care, the goal is to reunite the child with the family. It is important to understand that whenever it is safe and possible, it is best for children to return home to their families. This means that foster parents help prepare children for reuniting with their family. Concurrent Planning is undertaken to work toward this goal at the first priority, while identifying an alternative placement plan for the child if reunification is not possible. The preferred alternative plans include adoption and guardianship. Foster parents may be identified as the child’s “concurrent placement family” to be considered for a child’s adoption or other alternative permanent plan, if reunification is not possible. Families wishing to adopt must also have an approved adoptive home study. The Department of Family and Children’s services provides with service.
Planning for some children has proceeded past trying to reunify the children with their birth family. These children are usually a little older, pre-teens and teens, who are growing up in foster care. California law requires that there continue to be consideration about whether or not adoption or guardianship would be in the child’s best interests. Older children are adopted and make wonderful sons and daughters.
California State law requires that a family be licensed to care full-time for an unrelated child under the age of eighteen.
The State of California contracts with the Santa Clara County Social Services Agency to complete the licensing process.
No. There may be some expense for preparing your home to meet health and safety standards. For example, you must have adequate sleeping space, although a foster child is generally not required to have his or her own room. Your home must have working smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. Water and sewage systems must meet state guidelines. Weapons, dangerous chemicals, and medicines must be locked up or kept out of reach. For caring for children under 10 years of age or who have disabilities, swimming pools and other bodies of water must be covered or fenced
Only your name, address and the number of foster children for whom you are licensed for is public information. In the course of share your home with a child, his or her family will earn something about you and your family through the child, by you sharing about yourself with the child’s family and by the child’s social worker sharing a basic description of your family with the birth parents. On the other hand, you will be provided essential information about the child’s family that is necessary for you to know and understand how best to care of the child. Ideally, a foster child sees his or her foster family and birth family as appreciating and respecting one another and working together.
Foster parents may be single or married. They may own or rent their home or apartment.