The process of how to become a foster parent is not always clear cut and defined. In fact, every state is slightly different in their requirements and, even within a state, every county or agency has variations in their process.
Maybe you have already made up your mind that you are going to become a foster parent or maybe you are still in the research phase. Regardless of where you are in the process, I think explaining how to become a foster parent here at Hope & Home will give you a general framework for what to expect.
As a bonus, I’ll also brief you on what variations you may encounter in other counties or states.
Finding an agency or county to get licensed
For foster care in Colorado Springs, families will need to look for an agency to get licensed through rather than going directly through the Department of Human Services (DHS). But if you are looking to get licensed in another county or state, you will first need to figure out how the system works in your area.
How to become a foster parent varies from county to county. Some license foster families directly through the county, others solely outsource to local agencies, and some counties do both!
If you are in a county where you have the choice between working with your local “DHS” or going through a private agency, there are unique strengths and weaknesses to each. The main two differences are the type of children available to you and the services provided.
In Colorado, if you were to get licensed with an agency, you’d have access to children from all over the state. If you get licensed through the county, you will only receive placements from the county you are certified with.
This may not be a big deal to you or it may make a big difference depending on the ages and types of children you are wanting to serve.
Additionally, whether you are certified through the county or through an agency, you will have access to all the services your county provides. However, most private agencies are nonprofit organizations and, most likely, have fundraising support to provide additional services.
These services go above and beyond what the county is able to provide and are usually exclusive to foster parents within the agency. For example, foster parent support groups, free childcare during those support groups, lower staff-to-foster parent ratios, special events, stores with donated items for parents to “shop” in for free, etc.
This is the case in Colorado and I would venture to say most other states as well.
If you choose to get certified to become a foster parent with a private agency, I recommend reading 14 things to look for when choosing an adoption or foster care agency.
Licensing process: How to become a foster parent
Once you have decided on where you are going to get certified as a foster parent, there are a number of things that will happen (and not always in this order, depending on the agency or county) this is what it looks like at Hope & Home:
Tour & Interview
First, you will meet with a licensing specialist to tour the facility and learn about the foster care and foster-to-adopt program.
This meeting is a great time to bring a list of any and all questions that you may have. No question is too small or insignificant!
Application & Acceptance
Next in your journey to becoming a foster parent, you will need to fill out the application paperwork and sometimes, pay an application fee. Hope & Home does not have an application fee, but this is something to clarify with the agency you are applying with.
The application paperwork usually consists of the state application for foster care and/or adoption and a few additional forms to fill out. This application and paperwork still goes to the agency you are applying with, even though it is a state form. This is because your state of CO license is granted through the agency’s license.
The agency is required to have your application in your file.Once you submit your application, there is usually a short review process. The agency needs to verify that there are no reasons that they cannot certify you from the information that they see on paper.
If everything is good to go, you should get a call to let you know if you have been accepted into the program within just a few business days.
Training & paperwork
Next, a member of the licensing team will set up your Pre-Certification meeting. They will give you a list of things to bring such as drivers licenses, marriage certificates, divorce certificates, copies of auto insurance & registration, etc. as copies of these are required to be in your file.
You will fill out more paperwork at this meeting including a Colorado SAFE questionnaire. This is the first stage of your home study. (It is important to fill this out as accurately as possible.)
During this meeting they will set up your training schedule, if they haven’t already. At Hope & Home, you will complete CORE classes, Advanced CORE, CPR and First Aid, and a wonderful weekend training called “New Foster Parent Launch”.
The agency should have a resource for taking your CPR and First Aid class, and often it is a reduced rate. At Hope & Home, we have an instructor that offers classes at Hope & Home for a reduced rate to our foster parents.
You will have a series of background check forms to fill out so the agency or county can run the following background checks on you and any adult living in the home.
- Fingerprint cards that produce the CBI (Colorado Bureau of Investigation) and FBI reports
- A Child Abuse and Neglect background check done by the state of Colorado Department of Human Services Background Investigation Unit (CDHS-BIU)
- Colorado TRAILS search (a registry for abuse of children)
- CBI Sex Offender background check. Additionally, if you have lived outside of the state of Colorado within five years of licensure, there may be an additional background check that will need to be completed with the past state(s) that you lived in.There is often a processing fee or a background check fee that the agency charges the foster family. We will give you the exact Hope & Home fees here, but it’s important to realize that other agencies may charge additional fees. At Hope & Home we don’t charge extra for our time to process the background checks, but the different background check agencies listed above have their own fees associated with them. We ask foster parents to pay just $107 for a couple, or $67.50 for an individual for this portion. If you have lived outside of the state of Colorado within the last five years, most states offer this background check for free, but there can be a $10-30/person fee for each state.
The state of Colorado requires the SAFE home study guidelines (Structured Analysis Family Evaluation) for home studies. You will be assigned a home study writer who is a certified SAFE home study writer.
They will set up appointments to come to your home to do a series of interviews as well as a facility check. They will then take the information they gained at the interviews and put it into a 15-20 page document that will become your official home study once it is reviewed and approved by a SAFE Home Study Supervisor.
You will also get a chance to review the home study. Again, some agencies may charge a home study fee. You will want to clarify this prior to starting your process.
At Hope & Home we do not charge our foster parents for their initial home study OR for the annual re-certification process.
Once your home study is finished and all required paperwork, training and background checks are complete, the agency can submit the paperwork needed to obtain your official provider number for your certificate! Congratulations, you are a licensed foster parent!
This is how you become a foster parent with Hope and Home in Colorado Springs!
Taking your first placement
The time has come to prepare to welcome your first “placement” into your home! He or she could come at any time once you are certified, so it’s wise to surround yourself with a community of foster parents.
If you are with Hope & Home, make sure to connect and work closely with your assigned mentor family. They are a crucial and valuable resource to you as a new foster parent.
I hope this answers your questions about how to become a foster parent! If you are ready to take the next step and you are located in Colorado, we would love to meet with you!