Loving families, just like yours, are key to the success of the child welfare system. Right now there are approximately 15,000 children in temporary foster care in Pennsylvania. As a foster parent, you will have the unique opportunity to touch the lives of children in a significant and lasting way.
Individuals interested in becoming foster parents must be at least 21 years of age and as you might have guessed, becoming a foster family requires an extensive background check. To ensure the child’s safety, the agency will conduct a criminal background check and child abuse clearance on everyone in your home, age 14 and over. While foster families do not need to be well-off financially, the home approval process will require an in-depth evaluation of your total family picture and history, including financial stability. The physical features of your home will also be evaluated to ensure that there is adequate space for a child and that all safety requirements are met.
Several other factors also are assessed:
In addition to receiving training and support, foster parents are reimbursed for the cost of caring for a foster child. Health care costs are generally covered.
It takes a special type of person to provide stability to children in crisis when their own home has stopped being the right place for them to live, at least for the time being. But that doesn’t mean they’ve stopped needing what all kids need: security, nurturing and guidance. Foster parents step in and provide those protections temporarily.
Most children are in foster care for a short time, with the majority of children returning to their family of origin. A foster home can be an important haven, keeping children safe, helping them cope with their grief and loss and helping to prepare them for the eventual return to their family. Because of these challenges, foster parenting requires special people—people who can take children quickly and without hesitation into their homes knowing that, when the time comes, they will need to lovingly let them go.
Although most foster children are returned to their biological family, if such a return is not in the best interest of the child, the court may order that the parents’ rights be terminated and the child be placed for adoption. Should that happen, foster parents should play a key role in a child’s transition to an adoptive family, or they may consider adopting the child into their own home.
Depending on how long a child has been in foster care, the foster parent may know the most about a child. Foster parents should know they will be looked to for the valuable input they have about a child. Adoptive parents should not feel threatened by the bond and love shared between the foster parents and the child who will soon be their own. While foster parents have been an important part of this child’s life, that attachment will not take away from the love the child can develop for their adoptive parents. By bonding with their foster families, the child will be better prepared for life’s ups and downs because they were loved and cared for by everyone involved in their care.
If a foster family decides they would like to adopt their foster child, an adoptive family profile, or home study, will be done. Your family will have the opportunity to receive training, coaching and interviewing about the lifelong commitment to adoption—as opposed to the temporary nature of foster care. And even though you have been foster parents to your child and had previous foster home studies done, the same legal requirements will apply to you as they would to any adoptive parent.
Support Services in Your Community
Many areas have local foster parent associations that meet regularly to provide support for their members. Pennsylvania is also fortunate to have a statewide association, the Pennsylvania State Resource Family Association (PSRFA), dedicated to addressing the needs and concerns of foster parents, foster children and child placement agencies in Pennsylvania. You may call PSRFA at 800-951-5151 or the SWAN Helpline at 800-585-SWAN or visit the PSRFA Web site at www.psrfa.org.
Become a Foster Parent Today
Pennsylvania has a critical need for more foster parents. If you would like to make a difference in a child's life, contact your county children and youth agency. Find them at www.pcya.org.
Information on how to become an Adoptive Parent