10 Steps to Becoming a Foster Parent - MetroFamily Magazine
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10 Steps to Becoming a Foster Parent

By Oklahoma Human Services

Reading Time: 4 minutes 

For nearly a decade, MetroFamily has been familiarizing our readers with foster care in Oklahoma City. Our hope is that through education of Oklahoma’s foster care needs, our readers can help provide homes for the thousands of children in state custody or dedicate themselves to the other myriad ways each of us can support foster care.

If you’re considering opening your home to a child in foster care, you probably want to know exactly what to expect. Every case is different, but here’s a handy list of basic steps to becoming a foster parent. Experts agree the process can take three to four months.

  1. Now that you have decided to become a foster parent, contact Oklahoma Human Services or one of several private foster care agencies for an orientation or initial meeting to help you prepare for your new role.
  2. To become a certified foster parent, an agency specialist will provide you with an application and discuss the certification process with you. While every case differs, the goal is to complete the entire process within 90 days.
  3. You’ll need to provide an assortment of paperwork to start your certification process, including:
    1. copy of social security card
    2. paycheck stubs
    3. copy of marriage license (if applicable)
    4. copy of divorce decree (if applicable)
    5. copy of driver’s license
    6. copy of pet vaccinations (if applicable)
    7. copy of immunization records (if applicable)
    8. copy of military discharge (if applicable)
  4. Background checks will be completed for every person in the home age 18 and older by the Department of Public Safety, Child Welfare and Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations. Additionally, Oklahoma Human Services requires physical examinations from a doctor for the applicants and adults in the household. However, this does not mean that all adults in the home have to be in perfect physical condition to qualify.
  5. A home study will be conducted by someone from your agency or their selected partner once all required documents and forms have been completed. The home study includes interviews of friends and family of the potential foster parents, and it usually takes three to four home visits. While a home study can feel intimidating, the in-depth process is needed to determine someone’s motivation for fostering and ensure the safety and well-being of children in foster care who may be placed into their home. It’s an assessment tool to ensure quality care will be provided for all the children in the temporary custody of the state.
  6. Next, you will be enrolled in a training program that will educate you on everything from transitioning a child in foster care into your home to understanding the Oklahoma Human Services Child Welfare System as a whole. The training consists of 27 hours total and is available both in classroom settings and virtually. Additional in-service training is required each year after you become a foster parent, plus you will be offered many opportunities to grow in your foster parenting journey. In addition to learning about a variety of parenting topics, an added benefit of the training classes is that you have an opportunity to meet other foster parents and build a circle of people who know what it’s like to foster and who can offer advice and wisdom.
  7. Once the home study is complete and all forms and background checks have been completed, the agency specialist will have you sign a contract. Once that is complete, you are ready for your first placement.
  8. At this point, foster parents have the opportunity to identify preferences for the children they will accept into their home. Oklahoma Human Services and private agencies want to make sure families are as successful as possible in accepting placements, so you will be helped along the way to determine what placements would be best for you.      Foster parents can be very specific about what kind of child they will take, including race, age and gender, as well as whether or not you’re open to taking sibling groups or children with medical conditions or behavioral issues. It’s important for foster parents to be honest with themselves about what they can or cannot handle as it is traumatic for a child to be removed from a foster home if the placement isn’t a good fit.Oklahoma Human Services is child-focused and their goal is to find families who will meet the needs of the children they have in custody. The ideal foster parent would be open to taking children of all ages, backgrounds and abilities, as well as to keeping sibling groups together as evidence shows children are happier and healthier when they maintain family relationships while in custody. The sibling connection is incredibly important when considering the placements you are willing to accept into your home.When you are considering the ages of children you are willing to accept into your home, it’s important to note that teens and sibling groups are often hardest to place and need special families willing to meet them right where they are. Teenagers, in particular, are one of the most important age ranges to serve because aging out of the system without support can be incredibly difficult. No matter what types of placements you choose, you will be given support to meet the specific needs of children placed into your home.
  9. Once you are fully approved and ready to accept placements, your agency specialist will contact you to let you know information about the child(ren) who need(s) a foster family.
  10. Once you are matched with a child, placement is arranged.      Upon and after placement, your agency specialist as well as an Oklahoma Human Services permanency planning worker will meet with you and the child(ren) placed in your home periodically. The permanency planning worker knows the most about the child and he or she will be working with that child’s family on reunification efforts in most cases. The worker will work closely with you on visitation and other child-related needs.

Ready to take the next step in your foster care journey? Get started by contacting a foster care agency in Oklahoma City. More FAQs and information about supporting foster care in other ways are available on the Oklahoma Fosters website.

Editor’s Note: The order and timing of some of these steps may differ depending on situation and agency.

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