Frequently Asked Questions

What is a foster parent?
Foster parents provide a caring, temporary home for children unable to live with their birth families.
Who can become a foster parent?
  • Must be adults 18 years of age or older.
  • May be any sex, race, religion, color, political affiliation, nation origin, or sexual orientation.
  • May be single or part of a couple.
  • May own or rent a home or apartment.
  • Must be in reasonably good health.
  • Must have sufficiently appropriate room(s) to accommodate the child(ren).
  • Must be able to provide a suitable, safe, and stable environment.
  • Must have sufficient income to meet your own family's expenses and financial obligations.
  • Must submit to criminal records clearances, including the California Department of Justice and FBI Livescan (fingerprinting) and the Child Abuse Index Check
  • May work in or out of the home.
How do I become a foster parent?

The first step is to call the Orange County Foster and Adoptive Parent information line at (888) 871-KIDS (1-888-871-5437) to attend an orientation.

The decision to become a foster parent must be made with care by both you and our agency. Additionally, the State of California requires foster parents to be licensed. The licensing process involves:

  • Completing an application;
  • Undergoing a home safety check;
  • Submitting a medical report;
  • Providing character references;
  • Authorizing background checks on all adults living in the home;
  • Submitting the results of TB tests for everyone residing in the home;
  • Completing a series of six specialized training classes; and,
  • Providing proof of CPR/First Aid certification
What are some foster parent characteristics?
The Social Services Agency looks for people who:
  • Are willing and able to provide safe, nurturing care for children;
  • Display strong communication skills;
  • Can and do solve problems;
  • Express, accept and understand feelings;
  • Demonstrate the maturity and capacity to provide for the emotional and physical needs of a child in crisis; and,
  • Work cooperatively as a member of a professional team.
What are the types of foster parents?
  • Foster parents that provide regular/long-term foster homes provide care for children that have been placed in foster homes for 6-to-12 months, typically, although actual timeframes may vary to allow the children's parents time to address the problems that brought the children to the attention of the Juvenile Court.

  • Foster parents displaying the necessary skills or willing to be trained to meet the special needs of children and youth requiring more intensive services may become part of a "specialized" foster care program. Additional training and support are provided to specialized foster parents to assist them in meeting the special needs of the children. Examples of "specialized" programs in Orange County currently include:

    • Emergency Shelter Care: short-term, emergency foster care, typically ranging in time from as little as several hours to a maximum of 30 days.

    • Special Medical Care: foster care for children that display a wide range of medical needs, which may include temporary illnesses or injuries, or chronic, life-long medical conditions.

    • Developmental Disabilities Care: foster care for children that display developmental and/or physical disabilities.

    • Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care: six-month treatment foster care for teens that display behavioral and/or emotional challenges.

Who are the children in foster care?

Foster children range in age from infancy to late teens. Their backgrounds cross all ethnic and economic lines and most have experienced abuse, neglect, or abandonment. They may also have experienced physical, emotional, or social deprivation in their early years.

Foster homes are especially needed for teenagers, sibling sets, teen mothers and their babies, and children with special medical, educational, behavioral, and/or emotional challenges. Additionally, Hispanic, Vietnamese and African-American foster families are in great demand.

How do these children fall under the agency's care?
Children come to the attention of the Juvenile Court and are ordered placed in out-of-home care when they cannot remain safely with their own families because of abuse or neglect. The laws governing the reasons children may be removed from their birth families are established and monitored by the State and Federal governments. Dependent children in out-of-home care rely on Social Services Agency staff and foster parents working as a team to provide temporary, safe, and loving home environments.
May we choose the child we want?

During the licensing process, prospective foster parents may indicate their preferences regarding the ages and sex of their future foster children. At that time, the licensing social worker will check the foster parent's home to determine whether the physical design and layout of the home can accommodate the preferences expressed by the foster parents. For example, if the applicant expresses a preference for placement of children under the age of 10 years, the licensing social worker would check to ensure the home is safe for young children by making sure there is a fence around the swimming pool or Jacuzzi, etc.

Placement social workers coordinate with licensed foster parents to try and match foster children with the foster families best suited to meet a specific child or sibling groups' needs. Placement social workers also try to honor the preference expressed by foster parents regarding the ages and sex of the foster children they would prefer to accept.

What are the needs of foster children?

Children everywhere, including foster children, require food, shelter, medical care, education, and safety. Additionally, children require support, encouragement, reassurance, structure, security and love.

Understandably, many foster children may be frightened and confused at the sudden separation from their parents; some may be angry; and others may think they are being sent to foster homes as a punishment for something they might have done. Even babies may be fretful and irritable initially.

Fortunately, such concerns tend to gradually lessen over time as foster children are provided with the safety, structure, security, basic needs, and nurturing all children require. At times, however, it may be necessary to provide some children with additional services, such as counseling, tutoring, specialized medical care, or behavioral coaching, etc., which can be provided by the Agency to assist foster parents and foster children.

How long does a foster child stay in the foster home?
The Agency's goal is to reunite families as soon as safely possible. Children are typically placed in foster homes for 6-to-12 months, although the actual timeframes may vary to allow their parents time to address the problems that brought the children to the attention of the Juvenile Court.
Is there contact with the child's parents?

It is in the children's best interests and their parents' best interests to remain in regular, on-going contact whenever possible, especially since the goal, in most cases, is for foster children to return to their families. Thus, the Juvenile Court is required to order a visitation plan that shall be as frequent as possible between the child and his or her parents, consistent with the well being of the child.

Foster parents can encourage the children's birth parents to actively pursue reunification by completing their court-ordered case plans. Additionally, foster parents can role model appropriate parent-child interactions whenever possible.

What educational services are available to foster children?

Many foster children attend public schools in the neighborhoods in which they reside. However, in order to maintain continuity and consistency for the children, some foster children will attend the schools they attended prior to becoming foster children or the schools that the foster children last attended.

Additionally, some foster children may qualify for special education and support services, which are available and must be provided through the schools. At times, a child's Individualized Education Plan ("IEP") will call for the child to attend a specific school placement at a non-public school ("NPS").

May we take our foster children on vacation with us?

Generally, foster parents are encouraged to take their foster children on vacation with them. Foster parents are instructed to contact each child's social worker as soon as possible to discuss any upcoming vacations or travel plans so that the appropriate arrangements can be made well in advance. Additionally, foster parents are advised to contact each child's social worker as soon as possible to inquire as to whether there are any travel restrictions for the child.

Out-of-state travel requires advanced approval from the child's social worker and notification of the Juvenile Court. Travel outside the country requires approval from the child's social worker and the Juvenile Court, which will necessitate additional paperwork and advanced planning.

May our foster children attend church with us?
Foster parents are encouraged to include their foster children in their family activities, which might include attending church together. However, if a foster child is of a different faith, the child must be allowed to attend worship services in that faith if desired.
How many foster children may we care for?

California State licensing standards determine the maximum number of foster children that may be placed with a family, based in part, on the number of other children living in the foster home. Additionally, consideration is given to several other factors when placing children, including the foster parent's experience with children, the number of other children living in the home, and how much room is available in the home.


May foster parents adopt children in foster care?

The federal government requires child protection agencies to support reunification between children and their parents, while at the same time developing permanent plans for the children in case reunification efforts fail. This is called concurrent planning.

Children may be placed with concurrent planning families when reunification with their biological parents appears unlikely, yet the legal timelines for reunification have not been completely fulfilled. At other times, children are placed with concurrent planning families when there are no reunification services offered to the biological families or when reunification efforts have failed.

As active members of teams dedicated to obtaining the best possible outcomes for foster children, foster parents might assist the teams in the development of permanent plans for children in situations where safe reunification is not possible and when the children have not been placed in concurrent planning homes.

How will our children react to foster children?

There are no standard answers to the question of how foster parents' biological children might react to foster children living in the home. Every family is unique and even children within the same family may react differently to sharing their parents with foster children.

Fortunately, however, the initial training all foster parents receive will assist foster parents in preparing their own families and surrounding communities for receiving foster children. Additionally, experienced foster parents are available to answer your questions and provide helpful information regarding what to expect and what might have worked or not worked for them in helping their own children to react positively to foster children.

Do foster children need individual bedrooms?
No, foster children are not required to have their own bedrooms. Foster children may share bedrooms with other foster children or with their foster parents' biological children of the same sex, with a limit of two children to each bedroom, generally. However, each foster child must have his or her own bed. A foster child under the age of 2 years may share a bedroom with an adult.
Are there costs involved with foster parenting?

Foster parents may incur some costs during the licensing process. For example, foster parents are required to be certified in CPR/First Aid for infants, children and adults. The cost of taking this class in the community may be $30-$40.

Additionally, foster parents are required to provide the results of a medical evaluation before becoming licensed. This may or may not be covered by medical insurance.

Other potential costs might involve improvements that might be necessary to your home to meet licensing standards, such as adding pool or spa covers or fencing or child protective gates.

What if I work outside the home?

Foster parents may work outside the home. Depending on the child's age, there may be a need for daycare or after-school care while the foster parent is at work. In such cases, it is strongly recommended that foster parents use licensed daycare providers to ensure the childcare provider has undergone the appropriate background checks and met all other licensing requirements. Foster parents are also required to provide the child's social worker with contact and other information regarding the child's daycare provider so that this information can be provided to the child's attorney and the Juvenile Court.

Additional information regarding childcare for foster children will be discussed during the initial training foster parents receive prior to receiving their foster care licenses.

Is there financial assistance?
Foster families receive a monthly reimbursement provided by the Agency for the child's food, clothing and incidentals. The amount varies with the age and special needs of the child. Each child also receives a clothing allowance at the time a child is initially placed in a foster home and once a year thereafter. All funds provided are intended for the child's needs while in out-of-home care. Additionally, foster children in out-of-home care are eligible to
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