There was a marquee sign outside the foster agency office, beckoning, “become a foster parent!

So I did.

Shortly after my friend’s wedding—the moment when I decided I wanted to pursue foster parenting—I walked into the foster agency, asked how to apply, and began my journey. Becoming a foster parent involves passing a background check, a health screening, a home inspection, an interview, and completing some paperwork. It’s easier than you think.

While people sometimes talk about the paperwork and home study as an intimidating process, I was surprised at how easy it was. I completed the paperwork—background information, letters of recommendation, and personal questions—in one afternoon at Starbucks. I made some minor modifications to my house—such as purchasing a trash can with a lid on it, and locking away all medications and chemical cleaning products.  The hardest part of the paperwork was drawing a floorplan of my house. Drawing floorplans is not my talent.

When the agency social worker came to my house for the home inspection and interview, she asked questions regarding my experience with children, my lifestyle, my personal beliefs, and my parenting style. She went over the safety checklist: a fire extinguisher, tap water that doesn’t run too hot or cold, chemicals out of reach of children. She looked at the room where the foster child would be staying. I submitted a monthly budget to demonstrate that I could cover my own expenses, without relying on the child’s monthly stipend. I talked about my community, my support system, and how I intended to manage work and childcare. I talked about my experience as a teacher, how my parents raised me, what hobbies I enjoyed. It only took an hour or two.

Being single, I left half of the questions on the paperwork—labeled “spouse” or “partner”—blank. I didn’t have to tell the social worker about a significant other, or biological children. It was simple. It was just me.

Looking back, if I could make a quick checklist of requirements and recommendations to be a foster parent, it would be as follows:

  1. At least 21 years old.
  2. A current heath screening (you can have disabilities or chronic health issues, as long as they do not impede your ability to care for children).
  3. Ability to pass a criminal background check.
  4. Experience with children.
  5. A monthly budget that covers your family’s current expenses (you don’t have to be able to cover all of the foster child’s expenses, because you receive a monthly stipend).
  6. A spare bedroom (or a crib in your bedroom, if you plan to only foster infants).
  7. A plan for childcare, if you work (childcare is sometimes subsidized by the foster agency).
  8. Ability to pass a safety checklist for your property (this varies from state to state, but it isn’t too difficult).
  9. Emotional support for yourself, through a community and possibly therapy.
  10. Knowledge of childhood trauma and attachment theory (I would recommend books by Dr. Karyn Purvis—as would any other foster parent you ask).

I’ve been asked before if getting certified took a long time or was difficult. While it may be more challenging for some, that was not my personal experience. All told, the process of being certified as a foster parent is something like creating a monthly budget, going to a counseling session, doing a bit of home improvement, learning a bit of childhood development, applying for a job, and being interviewed all rolled up into one.

Getting certified was the easy part.

I took home an application in January. I was certified in February. I got my first phone call in March.

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