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Become A Foster Parent: Basic Steps To Foster Parenting In Virginia

1. Getting Started

When you've decided you may be ready to become a foster parent, the first thing to do is find the available agencies in your area.

This can be done by contacting the local Department of Social Services listed in your phone book and checking the list of private licensed providers on the website of Virginia Department of Social Services. In Virginia foster homes are approved—not licensed. The local departments and private child-placing agencies are authorized to approve the homes they use for foster care placements.

2. Orientation

An orientation meeting is your next step to become a foster parent. At this meeting you'll learn things that will clarify questions you may have about being a foster parent. You will hear about the types of children who need foster care and what strengths and challenges they might have. You will also learn what will be expected of you when you become a foster parent. The exact process and steps to become a foster parent will be explained to you in detail. Make sure that you take plenty of notes and feel free to ask any questions you might have during the orientation meeting.

3. Foster Parent Training (known as “pre-service training)

Your foster parent training classes are where the real work begins in your journey to become a foster parent. Depending on the foster care agency you are working with, you may be required to take from 4 to 10 separate classes, often lasting 1½ to 4 hours, each. These classes will present questions that will help you consider why you want to become a foster parent. They will also prepare you for the challenges you will have. This will be the time when you get to ask questions as they come to mind and learn some basic foster parenting techniques and coping strategies that will help you and the children who will be in your home when you become a foster parent. Your training begins the partnership between you and your foster care agency. It will help you and the agency come to a mutually agreeable decision about how to proceed in the journey of helping children and youth in foster care.

4. Applying to Become a Foster Parent

Your foster parent application will generally be completed while you are working on your training classes. In order to become a foster parent you will need to complete questionnaires about employment, residency, health status, legal issues, financial and credit status and provide references to your foster case worker. You will also be required to get a criminal background check including fingerprinting. It's important to be honest and careful when completing your applications so that questions don't come up that might delay or prevent your goal of becoming a foster parent. All of this as well as the home study described in the next step are necessary for documenting that the agency has fully considered your home and determined it to be a safe and nurturing home for children. These agencies are responsible to the courts and others for the safety of children in their custody.

5. The Home Study

Before you become a foster parent, your authorizing agency representative will meet with you and your family in your home. They will take the time to get to know you better by asking about your family history, relationships, support network and the reasons you want to become a foster parent. They will also inspect your home for safety concerns and to determine if you have enough space for foster children. They will discuss with you which types of foster children may be best suited for you. Your home study is intended to help you to be better prepared to become a foster parent.

6. The BIG Wait—completion of the approval process

As excited as you may be to become a foster parent, try to be patient. It isn't uncommon for the approval process to take several weeks or months. Take this time to relax and let your training and preparation time settle in. You may also be asked to provide additional documents or information during this time. Don't worry! You have almost completed everything you need to become a foster parent.

7. Approval and Placement

You made it! Your approval to become a foster parent has finally happened! This is the moment for which you've worked and waited so long. You and your agency will work together to create the best match of a child or even a group of siblings for placement in your home. Enjoy this time, and remember that despite all the training and preparation no placement or child is ever perfect, and you will never be a perfect foster parent for every child; but, you can become the foster parent for which so many foster children are waiting.

8. Continuing Education (known as “in-service” training)

After you become a foster parent, your state or foster agency may require you to maintain your approval by taking additional classes each year. This training will further your knowledge on how to meet the needs of the children placed in your home. FACES of Virginia Families: Foster, Adoption, and Kinship Association can help you arrange for training to meet your needs. Please call us at 877-823-2237 (VA FACES); visit us on-line at www.facesofvirginia.org; or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Support groups/networks are also a great way to keep energized and informed. Contact FACES for a referral or to get help starting a support group in your area.