Foster parenting - frequently asked questions
Q. Why be a foster parent?
It may be the most rewarding thing you ever do. You will help keep kids safe, strengthen your community and give your own life a meaningful new challenge. Children placed in DHS custody have experienced very unsafe conditions in their home and need the protection foster care can provide.
You can make a difference by stepping up when children need help the most. By becoming a foster parent, you can give children a safe place to stay while their families get the help they need.
Children are placed in foster care for different reasons. Sometimes, their families cannot provide them with the basic safety and protection they need. Many have also faced difficult experiences including parental substance abuse, sexual or physical abuse, and abandonment.
Foster parents give children a chance to heal and feel supported during this difficult time in their lives. It is challenging work, but when you see how your guidance and love has made a difference in a young person's life the rewards are immeasurable. The connections you make with a child in foster care and the good role model you are to them and their parents can often last a lifetime and benefit your whole community.
Q. What is the need for foster parents?
There is an ongoing need. Currently there are approximately 8700 Oregon children in foster care. DHS needs more caring and supportive foster families to insure that more children stay in their same neighborhoods, aren't separated from their siblings, and get the individual attention they deserve. Diverse families are also needed to help kids grow with a strong sense of racial and cultural identity.
Q. Who are the children who need foster parents?
Children living in foster care may be infants, toddlers, preschoolers, grade school age, or teenagers. They also come from many types of backgrounds, cultures, and families. They are like other children, each with their own special personality, abilities, interests, and potential.
Children entering foster care have been hurt by abuse or neglect. These children may have higher needs related to these experiences, including the grief and loss of being taken from their families.
There is a high demand for foster parents who can care for sibling groups, ensuring brothers and sisters can stay together. Families that enjoy working with teens and can guide them toward a positive future are also in high demand. Additionally, there is a need for Native American, Hispanic, and African American foster families.
Q. How do these children come into foster care?
Foster children come to the attention of DHS in a variety of ways. Friends, neighbors, or relatives may report that a family does not appear to be giving adequate care to their children resulting in unsafe conditions. Physicians, nurses, teachers, school administrators, social workers, and foster parents are required by law to report any situations in which children are in need of protection.
Q. How long do children stay in foster care?
On average a child will spend 457 days in foster care.It is always difficult to know how long a child may be in foster care - most often the length of time is directly related to their parent's ability to engage in services designed to help them keep their children safe. As a foster parent, you may choose the type of placements you will accept. Some placements may last for a few weeks, months or even years.
Q. What kind of foster parents do these children need?
No two families look alike. They are as diverse as the children needing homes. Each comes from their own different life experiences, levels of education, income, occupations, and lifestyles. Successful families are caring people who are ready to make a commitment to a child, and are open to learning new things.
Q. Who can be a foster parent?
There is no set standard for being a foster parent. Older adults, single people or couples with or without children may foster parent. Applicants should posses the ability to exercise sound judgment and demonstrate responsible, stable, and emotionally mature lifestyle. Couples in which both partners are working may also be considered for foster parenting.
- You can be single, married, or domestic partners
- You can live in a house or apartment, but must have room to house a child
- You can work inside or outside the home
- You must be at least 21 years of age or older1
- You must have sufficient income to support their family
- You must be able to physically care for a child
- You must pass a child abuse and criminal background check2
Oregon welcomes and supports all families equally. Families of every race, culture, and ethnicity are needed to help children grow with a strong sense of racial and cultural identity. Applicants are considered regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.
Q. What are foster parents paid?
Foster parents are volunteers who receive a monthly check for each child's care expenses. The rate foster parents are reimbursed varies. It depends on each child's age and level of need. Children's medical and dental costs are also covered by a state funded health plan.
Q. Is there a limit to how many children I can foster at a time?
Your certifier will determine how many children would be appropriate to place with you based on your own circumstances and preferences. State guidelines allow for up to 4 children per single parent household, and 7 children per two parent household. So, if you are a single parent and have 1 child of your own living at home, you would only be allowed to accept a maximum of 3 foster children.
Q. How do I become a foster parent?
The application/certification process for foster parents varies slightly from county to county. The first step is to call 1-800-331-0503. A foster care specialist will answer your initial questions and give you the contact name of a DHS certifier in your county. You will be invited to an orientation in your area to help you better understand and decide if foster parenting is right for you.
Q. What are the classes like that prepare families for caring for children in foster care?
The training provided by DHS will prepare you for parenting children who may have been abused or neglected. Topics include:
- Special issues facing children in foster care
- How to work with schools, therapists, and others to help children in their care.
- Rules and procedures
- How to apply effective child rearing practices
- Discipline without punishment
- Understanding the effects of abuse and neglect on children
Q. Who do I contact for more information on becoming a foster parent?
Call 1-800-331-0503 or contact us for general information. You can also contact your local DHS office.
Q. Can foster parents adopt their foster child?
Yes. However, most children are reunited with their birth families or extended family members whenever possible. If this is not possible, children may benefit by being adopted by their foster parents with whom they have become attached and built a relationship. If you are interested in having a child become part of your family permanently, you are encouraged to pursue adoption directly.
Q. What about birth families?
Some form of contact between foster parents and birth parents should occur. There are many levels of contact -- from sending written information about the child to phone calls and/or face-to-face contact. Contact with the birth family can ease a child's anxieties and reduce loyalty issues.
The appropriateness, type and frequency of contact is determined by the caseworker on a case-by-case basis; when it is safe and in the best interest of the child, direct contact between the foster and birth parents is encouraged.
1There are individual circumstances, requiring management approval which may allow a relative applicant between the ages of 18 and 20 to be certified as a relative foster parent.
2Applicants with criminal history will be evaluated on a case by case basis. Consideration will be given in light of the overall context of the offense.
Oregon law does not allow approval of any applicant with:
- Any history or felony conviction involving endangering a child.
- A felony conviction for violent crime, rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse or homicide
- Any history of spousal abuse.