The Most Frequently Asked Questions About Foster Parenting
What are the requirements for a foster parent in the state of Georgia?
- Completion of state and federal criminal background check
- Pass a drug screen
- Complete a medical exam
- Meet home safety requirements
- Provide employment and family references
- Attend a 20 hour pre-service foster parent training program
- Complete CPR, First Aid, and Water Safety Training
- Receive training on crisis intervention and emergency management
- Possess a valid Georgia driver’s license
- Verify current automobile insurance coverage
- Possess health insurance (GCAC of Georgia requirement)
- Undergo a psychological evaluation (GCAC of Georgia Requirement)
- 25 years of age or older
What are the steps to become a foster parent?
- Attend an orientation with GCAC of Georgia Staff. Schedule a one-on-one interview so we can get to know each other and share with you the GCAC of Georgia difference.
- Complete an application and begin paperwork after you have participated in the orientation.
- Complete the legal requirements such as background checks and fingerprinting.
- Attend IMPACT Training. This is a state required training which is provided in an intensive weekend session designed to prepare you for the demands of foster care. At the end of this session you will have the opportunity to meet with a panel of foster families who can answer your questions and provide you with experienced insight.
- Complete a home study with one of our case managers.
- After all the above requirements are met, you will be notified of your final approval. Once you are approved, you will be added to our list of foster parents and will be notified when a child needs a home.
How do I know if I would be a good foster parent
Foster parenting requires a lot of patience, compassion and skill. Foster parents understand that children who come to them are hurting and that it takes a long time to reduce the pain, and change the resulting behaviors. You must be at least 25 years of age, be of good moral character, be in good health, have an adequate income, be flexible, be a good listener, and be willing to work in partnership with the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services.
Effective foster parents are consistent and understand that routines help children feel secure. Foster parents need to be flexible and able to adjust to unexpected events such as tantrums and nightmares. Good foster parents relish the challenge of finding new and creative ways to mange a child’s behavior and effect positive outcomes. The most successful foster parents have a passion for learning and welcome all opportunities to improve their knowledge and skills. Individuals who make the best foster parents are those who acknowledge the child’s bond with their birth parents, (no matter the birth parent’s past history), and those who are willing to work toward family reunification and actively support family connections.
What do you mean by the word “motivation” for wanting to be a foster parent?
Typically, people who want to become foster parents are individuals with big hearts who genuinely love children. Unfortunately, this is often not enough to be a successful foster parent. Children who enter foster care probably have been seriously abused and/or neglected. As a result, children in foster care need a person or family who is able and willing to deal with the behaviors they often develop in response to the abuse or neglect. If a person has unresolved losses in their own life, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to parent in an objective way. Sometimes the foster child will trigger painful memories in the adult with an unresolved issue. This does not mean that you will be unable to serve children in some way, but it may mean that providing 24-hour parenting will not be helpful for you or any foster child at this time. These concerns are discussed throughout the training and evaluation process. The decision to become a foster parent is a mutual decision that occurs over the time period of the training and home study process.
Are foster parents paid to care for the children placed in their homes?
No. However, foster parents do receive a reimbursement to offset the cost of a child’s room and board, clothing and related expenses. Rearing children is expensive. GCAC of Georgia does provide limited financial support based upon the age and needs of the child. Medical, dental, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and psychological needs are provided through Medicaid.
Do I have to take every child referred to my home, or do I have a say in which children I would like to accept?
We strongly encourage every foster family to voice their opinions and concerns regarding a prospective foster child. There must be a “good match” between the child and the foster family. Prior to placement, a case manager will share information about the child to include social history, current needs, allergies, basic reason for placement, current medication if any, current therapist if any, challenging behaviors, emotional development and the need for ongoing counseling, and educational placement. If a family does not feel comfortable accepting a child into their home, they have the right to decline placement. Upon acceptance of a child for placement in your home, we do expect the family to be committed to the child throughout their entire foster placement. Refusing a placement will not result in withholding future referrals. Voicing your concerns about the placement will help to reduce the risk of placement disruption in the future; resulting in another loss for the child.
We do not have experience working with “special needs” children. Will that be a problem?
Any parenting experience is an asset, but is not required. The willingness of a foster family to acquire the skills necessary to meet the needs of children who have been though abuse and neglect is highly desirable.
What are the needs of most foster children?
Children, like adults, can become depressed, anxious, fearful and angry. Some have medical needs or developmental problems. Many have delayed social skills or special school needs. Foster parents work closely with the school, therapists and other professionals, and in many cases, with the extended family.
What happens to foster children when they leave my home?
Most children who enter foster care are eventually reunited with their biological parents or extended family. If that is not possible, they remain in long term foster care or become available for adoption.
Is my house suitable?
Single-family homes, town homes, and apartments are all appropriate locations for foster care. Foster children need to have their own beds and some require their own room. Some foster children can share a bedroom with a same gender child close in age. Most children come with few possessions but will need a dresser drawer and adequate closet space. We do not pay for any alterations needed to your house to meet fire and safety codes. Our staff will discuss home safety issues such as storage of firearms, access to swimming pools, safety concerns around certain breeds of dogs or exotic animals, home evacuation plans in the event of fire, emergency plans during a natural disaster, and the requirements for both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
Must foster parents accept all ages of children?
No. during the home study process, foster parents discuss with the case manager what age and sex they prefer. Placements are made within their age range.
How does a foster parent receive help if problems arise with the child?
A case manager is assigned to each child in the foster care system. It is the social worker’s responsibility to help in the supervision of a child. Foster care works best when the foster parent and case manager are a team focusing on the needs of a child. Foster parents may seek the advice of another more experienced foster parent that they developed as a “foster buddy.” It is advisable to develop a strong support network of family, friends, and professionals to help care for any foster child. GCAC of Georgia offers a 24-hour, on-call case manager to assist with emergencies that occur during non office hours or holidays.
How long does a foster child usually stay in a foster family?
Some children may only stay overnight, and others may stay forever. There is no definite length of time a child may be in your home. The goal of foster care is to reunite families; so approximately 85% of children will leave your home to achieve permanency. The Juvenile Court makes permanency decisions for children. Generally, biological parents have from six to fifteen months to achieve stability leading towards reunification.
What about a child’s clothing needs?
Few if any foster children come with adequate clothing unless they are moving from a previous foster home. When they enter foster care, the state of Georgia provides a small, initial clothing allowance. An additional allowance is provided annually after the first 6 months in care. Another resource is The Foster Support Foundation located in Roswell, Georgia. This foundation provides gently used clothing for foster children.
Is the reimbursement I receive taxed?
No. It is always best to consult with the IRS as tax regulations change, however a foster child who lives in your home for a year can be declared as a dependent.
What support groups are available for foster parents?
The Georgia Center for Adoption and Foster Care can be reached at 1-866-A-PARENT. They have a lending library on adoption and foster care. They have web chats, monthly event calendars, and bulletin boards to encourage foster parents to network with one another. The center is located at 2250 Druid Hills Road in Atlanta, Georgia.
The Foster Parents of Georgia have a state association and their website is www.afpag.org. There is an annual conference and sponsor training opportunities throughout the year.
GCAC of Georgia also offers several Foster Parent Support Group Meetings for our foster parents. These are scheduled several times throughout the year.
What is a home study?
A home study or family assessment includes a series of meetings a case manager has with a potential foster family. These meetings are conducted in the home of the family. The home study also includes a written report describing the family’s social history as it relates to their skills and abilities to parent foster children. There are individual and joint interviews to explore if becoming a foster parent is right for you. Issues discussed include how you were parented as a child, the nature of your relationship with your parents, your philosophy regarding discipline, the techniques you used with your own children, your attitude towards birth parents, your ability to work as part of a treatment team, and your willingness to parent someone else’s child.
How often do foster children visit their parents?
Georgia law requires children have frequent and predictable visits with their birth families. Studies indicate that the greatest indicator of future reunification is regularly scheduled visitation. Initial visits are generally supervised in safe locations such as the DFCS office. Visits will continue by Court Order unless they are found to be contrary to the physical or mental well being of the child. Children are not allowed to visit unsupervised with parents if there are pending criminal charges for physical or sexual abuse.
How long must foster parents wait for placement?
The placement of a foster child is determined by the particular needs of a child, the abilities of the foster family, and the suitability of the child to the foster family. Many factors are considered in placement including religion, age, sex, schools, and cultural background. It is desirable to have many foster homes with varying compositions, attitudes and locations in order to select the most suitable one for a particular child. Placements are generally most rabid in homes that can accept a sibling group or older children; homes for children age 12 and over are especially needed.
Can a foster child go on vacation trips with a foster family?
Yes. Foster families are encouraged to accept a child as one of the family and trips are a great opportunity to do this; they are also wonderful learning opportunities for the foster child. However, trips need to be worked out well in advance with the case manager so as not to interfere with any court dates or special events with the biological family. Permission to travel must be granted by written permission of the birth family. Out of state travel does require a signed Court Order and written authorization for emergency medical treatment for the foster child.
What training is available for foster parents?
A foster parent is required to maintain 20 credit hours of training per year; therefore training for foster parents is ongoing. To maintain the number of required annual trainings hours, you will need to plan to devote some time to foster parenting training on an almost monthly basis. Training can include reading books related to childcare, participating in videoconferences let by a social worker, attending CPR/First Aid or Water Safety Classes, spending time with your foster child’s therapist learning how to reinforce behavioral changes at home, attending IEP meetings at school, or attending a foster parent conference. GCAC of Georgia also offers scheduled training throughout the year in an effort to support your training requirements.
Will I ever have to appear in Juvenile Court?
Under current Georgia law, foster parents are not considered a legal party to a Juvenile court case. This means a foster parent is notified of a court proceeding, but does not have the right to make a recommendation or express an opinion before the court.
What are some of the rewards of becoming a foster parent?
- A sense of accomplishment
- The chance to help children feel good about themselves
- Pride in doing a meaningful and important job
- Challenging experiences
- The opportunity to work with diverse social, economic and cultural populations
- The opportunity to work with skilled medical and psychological experts
- A chance to use special parenting skills and talents
- The opportunity to make a difference in the life of a child
Can foster parents work outside the home?
Yes. Placement of a child in your home however, may depend upon your availability to transport and participate in visitation and frequent therapy needed by the child. Some children with severe attachment issues may require a stay-at-home parent.
Who are the children in foster care?
Children in foster care come from all types of backgrounds and can include:
- Brothers and sisters who need to stay together
- Children with developmental or physical disabilities
- Children with emotional problems
- Children who have lost their ability to trust adults
- Children who need someone to give them a chance to succeed
- Children who need extra help in getting along with others
- Children who struggle to feel good about themselves
- Children who may need extra help with school work
- Teenagers who have not experienced a positive family life and now need extra patience and commitment.
- Teenage mothers and their babies
Do foster parents have full responsibilities for the children in their home?
The agency shares responsibility with the foster parents. Foster parents are responsible for the day-today care of the child. The Georgia Department of Family and Children Services maintains legal custody of the child and are therefore responsible for the legal decisions about the child’s future.
How many children can a foster parent care for?
Foster care regulations require that there be adequate space for each child. The number of children that you could be approved to foster would depend upon the size of your home, your own family size, and the specific needs of each foster child in your care at that time. Georgia code states that the maximum number of children in your home including birth, adopted, foster and guardianship can be no more than six. Georgia code also states that no more than two of those children should be under the age of two at any one time. Children who are physically or sexually aggressive towards other younger children or who are experiencing intense emotional stress may require solitary placement. The level of need of every foster child is the primary consideration in determining the number of children placed in foster home.
We need individuals and families willing to foster children of all ages that may exhibit a variety of problems. Our greatest need is for families to parent children ages 7 and up. Children in foster care vary in age from newborn babies to teens. However, we NEED families with a desire to parent teens or sibling groups. Very often, teens are the “forgotten” children – but families who have committed to parenting teens have found it to be an extremely rewarding experience. It is truly satisfying to make a difference in the life of an adolescent who is about to enter young adulthood and who has never received any guidance and care. Likewise, opening your home to sibling groups so that further loss through separation may be avoided is a true gift. Children who enter foster care may have a variety of special needs. They may have psychological problems, medical issues, fetal alcohol syndrome, attention deficit disorder, mild cognitive delays, or any problem that might befall children. We attempt to match a child coming into foster care with a foster home based on the strengths and needs of both the child and the foster family. Please join us in our attempt to give the children of Georgia a chance for a brighter future.
What is a Respite Parent?
Respite parents go through the same approval process as a foster parent but provide short term care when a foster family needs a night, a day, weekend or week off for vacation or family emergencies. Becoming a respite parent is another way to serve Georgia's foster children and foster parents. Respite parents may decide to be become full time foster parents.