Becoming a Foster Parent

Comforting a crying child, making time to play pretend, listening to a story, cooking a great grilled cheese together — these unsung parts of parenthood may seem mundane, but for children in the midst of a family upheaval, these small acts provide the stability, normalcy and love they often desperately crave.

At any given moment, there are an average of 16,000 children in Ohio’s foster care system. Most are unable to stay with their biological families because of abuse, neglect or other circumstances. The primary goal of foster care is to provide a temporary, safe, nurturing and stable environment until a child can be safely reunited with their families, which usuallyhappens within a year in Ohio.

“The goal of foster care is always to return children to their birth family if the family works to complete their case plan and we determine it is safe for the children to return,” says Rodger Stauffer, foster care manager with Agape for Youth, Inc. “Permanency is critical to the future success of our children and that is where adoption comes in. It is common for our foster families to ultimately choose to adopt children who have been placed in their home when reunification is not possible.”

If you have ever considered the idea of fostering a child, here are the requirements as dictated by the state, as well as theimportant personal characteristics that are attributed to successful foster families.

The Basics

In Ohio, foster parents must be licensed by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services through their county publicchildren services agency (PCSA), or a private agency certified by the state to approve and recommend foster parents.

“All prospective foster families will need to complete a home study, which is an assessment of the family and home required by the state,” says Sarah Feine, a family assessor with Focus on Youth, Inc. “They will also need to complete paperwork for the assessment, 36 hours of pre-service training, background checks, financial documents, physicals and safety assessments of their home.”

Basic requirements include being at least 21 years old; having at least one person in the home who can read, write and speakEnglish or be able to communicate with the child and the placement agency; be free of any physical, emotional or mentalconditions that could endanger the child as confirmed by a physician; pass a criminal history and background check; andtake part in a home visit.

There are also requirements for continued training once a family has become licensed. “Once licensed, Agape offers our families an extensive menu of on-going trainings designed to go deeper into various issues that our families may face,” Stauffer says. “They learn from experts on mental health, birth families, school issues, behavioral issues, self-harm, impact of abuse and neglect and much more.”

Your family

It’s important to note that foster families come in all shapes and sizes. “The ideal family is simply one that is willing to love children and keep them safe,” Feine says. “You can be single, married, divorced or have a live-in partner and be a licensed foster parent. Your home situation will be evaluated and considered individually during the home study process.”

Feine also notes that potential foster parents who are married are required to have their spouse on the license. “Your family circumstances will influence the ages and needs of the children considered for placement in your home,” she says.

Your home

Prospective foster parents are required to rent or own a home or apartment that meets physical safety standards (such ashaving fire extinguishers) and has space for a child or children, although they do not need their own individual bedrooms. Families must also demonstrate that they can provide reliable transportation.

Your finances

The state requires that foster families demonstrate financial stability, meaning they can support themselves and the child.Foster families do receive a stipend while a child lives with them, but it only covers the child’s daily expenses. Medical expenses for children in the foster system are covered by Medicaid.

Besides meeting regulations set by the state, good foster parents possess a variety of personal traits and skills that make the fostering experience positive for both them and the child in their care. “Homes that are flexible, have strong support systems, can be empathetic, and people who are willing to try new parenting techniques tend to have success when working with our kids,” Stauffer says. “There is no perfect formula, but a willingness to love a child where they are at is a great starting point.”

Above all, prospective foster parents should understand that they are not alone. Local foster care agencies and support groups offer ample resources to help along the way. “Walking with them through the journey, supporting them when it gets tough, and celebrating every victory with them is something we’ve done exceptionally well for the last 25 years,” Feine says.

To learn more about becoming a foster parent, as well as Ohio foster care rules and regulations, visit



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