Applying for foster care is a long drawn out, emotionally charged process. A person who makes the decision is usually someone who is very excited to begin helping children and is anxious to get started. They may also be someone who is interested in adoption, and sees foster care as a means to do this without the extravagant costs that are usually involved. The children who do end up being available for adoption through foster care are children who are really in need of forever homes, as opposed to the newborn babies who have people waiting in long lines to adopt through an adoption agency.
The first step is to call your local Department of Family and Protective services. They will tell you when the next available orientation class is. You will attend this class, and they will go over all the requirements it takes to become a foster family. There are a lot more than you will realize. Your income must be high enough that you support your family with no problem - foster care is not an incoming earning opportunity. Your home must be large enough, and you cannot have more than the maximum number of children the state allows for foster care in your home already. In Texas, you cannot have more than six children under the age of 18 in your home, or more than five if you have children under the age of five, and that includes your own children, too.
Once you've taken this orientation class, and you see that you do qualify as a foster family, you will take twenty hours of training. These classes are quite interesting if you have the right teacher. You will learn that almost all the children placed in foster care are going to have problems, and you will be given some advice on how to handle things. You will be taught how to navigate the system, something that is still hard until you actually experience it for a while. You will watch films, and listen to experts come in and talk to you. When it's all over, you are still going to be in for a lot of surprises once you are actually a foster parent, although these classes help a lot.
Once the classes are over and you have passed them and gotten your certificate to hand in to your local office, you will need to take water safety class and CPR. Do not think these are not going to come in handy, I have used them twice - on my own children!!
After all this, you will get in touch with your local Department of Family and Protective Services (this might have another name in your state) and they will come out to your house and meet you, then set up a home study. Getting ready for the home study is nerve racking, but it actually not as bad as you will think. You will be given a check list, make sure you have done everything on it, and there won't be much trouble. Your house will have to be in order and at this time you will go over what ages you would like to foster, and what disabilities and problems you feel able to accept.
Once the home study is done, it will begin to go around and around and around, and it's very hard to wait. But once it finally reaches the last desk, it will be approved (or denied, but by now, you will have a good idea) and you will be ready to accept your first foster child. This could be as quickly as the next day, or it could actually be several weeks. Sometimes, the workers have favorite families they like to use, and it will take a while before they get to know you.
As a foster mother of more than fifty children, and an adoptive mother of three of those fifty, I have a few words of advice:
First, no matter how stoic you think you are, your heart WILL be broken as a foster parent. That's okay. Although you think you won't, you will live through it. The best thing to remember is you gave a little child a safe place to stay during a hard time. Comfort yourself by praying for that child every time the tears start.
Second, remember the state is NOT an adoption agency. Then remember it again. The goal of foster parenting is to reunite the family. There will be times when you think everyone except you has lost their minds wanting to return the child. That is a time too, to remember that you are the lady the state hired to care for the child. It's going to be mostly the social worker, CASA, the guardian ad litems and the attorneys who are going to make this decision. Sometimes children ARE released for adoption, and when they are, the state will consider you first. But please be advised, they have not taken this child out of his or her home so that you can adopt them. They will work hard with the birth parents and extended relatives to reunite the family.
Third, there will always be someone telling you they couldn't do what you do because they are too sensitive. Comfort yourself when you hear this rude statement with the understanding they are not sensitive, they are selfish. They are protecting their own heart at the expense of a little child's suffering. Little children hurt too, and they need safe, loving homes when their own homes are in danger. To refuse to do it because you are so sensitive doesn't even make sense.
God bless your efforts! You will never be the same again!