Foster care has been in the news regularly over the past several months due to a severe shortage of licensed homes. To many people, the foster care system seems so complex that it can be overwhelming and difficult to know where to start on a journey to becoming a foster parent.
Here is a simple primer of how children come into foster care, what it is, who is involved and how you can become a licensed foster parent.
How does a child enter foster care?
Many people still assume foster children come from orphanages after something unfortunate has happened to one or both of a child’s parents. This is inaccurate. Orphanages in this country as many people think of them have not existed for decades.
Child Protective Services, a unit of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, investigates reports of abuse or neglect of children. If CPS determines it is unsafe for the child to live at home, the child is removed from the home, and CPS looks for relatives or close family friends to care for the child. If there is no one appropriate available from that group, a judge grants temporary legal guardianship of the child to CPS and places the child in foster care. More than 31,000 children were in foster care in Texas last year.
What is foster care?
Foster care is intended to be a temporary arrangement until a permanent living situation (also called permanency) is determined for a child. Sometimes a child is reunified with his or he family if birth parents are able to provide a safe, stable home. If parents cannot rehabilitate or provide a safe home, the child can be adopted.
Foster care typically takes place in a family’s home (the majority of what we do here at Buckner), a family group home or a residential group care facility. Parents care for children, providing a loving home for them. Foster families provide stability for children in their time of need. Foster parents shine hope into the lives of children by showing them they are loved. Foster families are all around us, including in churches, sports leagues and schools.
Who are the kids in foster care?
Children and teens in foster care are normal kids in your community, of all ages and backgrounds. According to the latest data released by TDFPS,
- 58 percent of children in foster care are under the age of 9 and 35 percent are ages 10-17.
- 39 percent are Hispanic, 32 percent Caucasian, 22 percent African-American and 7 percent other races.
- 69 percent of the children in foster care, waiting to be adopted, have absolutely no disabling conditions.
Children in foster care did not choose to be removed from their families or put into care. These children also share one important commonality: They simply need a family to love and care for them.
How do you become official foster parents?
For CPS or a licensed child-placing agency such as Buckner to place a child in foster care in your home, you must receive a license from the state of Texas. If you don’t feel ready to become a full-time foster parent, you can become a licensed respite or substitute caregiver, babysitting children in foster care and giving full-time caregivers a break.
Each agency must adhere to standards that the state dictates, but each agency also has slightly different processes. To become a licensed foster parent through Buckner, you need to meet our basic requirements, attend a local information meeting and complete interviews, a home study and training.
As you might imagine, there are many nuances to a system so large, but we hope this serves as a helpful overview. The TDPFS website offers a lot of great information about what to expect, how the system works and who the children are in foster care.
We would also love to talk with you, if you’re interested in more information about the process or have questions about foster care or the needs in your community. You can contact us here. You can also read part 2 of this post here.