If you’re considering becoming a licensed foster parent, you’re likely wondering how long it takes before you will be opening your home and your heart to a child in need. The short answer is that it varies between 3-6 months. But in reality, this timeline usually fluctuates, and it can sometimes take longer. The time frame is determined by different state requirements, the licensing employees you work with, and your own efficiency.
Let’s look at the steps that determine how long it takes to become a foster parent.
Steps to Achieving Foster Care Licensing
If you decided to become a foster parent today, you will most likely go through these steps. Remember, the exact order and timeline might differ depending on your state or licensing contact.
Do Your Research & Make Contact
This is the first step for anyone considering becoming a foster parent. If you have already read articles and watched videos about foster parenting and have decided you definitely want to pursue this path, the next step is finding local agencies, contacting more than one, and setting up preliminary meetings. One key consideration here is finding the right agency for you. There are public and private agencies to consider, including faith-based agencies. After an initial interview and paperwork, the real journey begins!
Home Study or Family Assessment
According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Welfare Information Gateway, the home study is required to ensure that potential foster parents are “mentally sound, financially stable, healthy, and prepared.” This is a comprehensive screening process in which the foster care agency learns all about you and your family. This includes details about your childhood and past, as well as your views on parenting. Home studies or family assessments may be done in groups as part of orientations or training, depending on the state or agency. Or, home studies can be done individually with a foster care worker.
References, Background Check, Home Safety Check or Inspection
Typically after you pass a home study or family assessment, the next steps are gathering references and background checks. These can take up to a couple months to complete. In addition, a home inspection must be conducted to ensure your home is a safe environment. The home inspector will look at typical safety features, ensuring smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and windows, banisters, etc. are all working properly. Similarly, they will ensure the home is safe for children specifically. For example, ensuring there is no smoking paraphernalia in the home and that any pets are vaccinated and safe for children to be around.
Orientation, Training, and Getting Licensed
Orientation or training differs widely by the state and even county. “Pre-service training” is another name for this process. These training sessions provide the information and skills necessary to be a foster parent. Many children who enter foster care have experienced abuse or neglect, and your training should include guidance on how to help them process and heal from this trauma. Your training might be related to the home study process depending on how your state and agency conduct the process. The training might be a set of evening classes, or a longer weekend session. Due to COVID-19, many foster parent training classes are currently taking place virtually.
What Can You Do to Speed Up the Process?
Potential foster parents may be able to speed up the process if they are motivated to get it done. Timely communication is the best way to become a foster parent faster. Here are a few things that can help:
- Promptly answering calls and emails from your foster care team and getting information to them quickly is key.
- Getting the necessary paperwork completed as fast as possible can help your application be processed faster.
- Taking truncated weekend training sessions or online training sessions will accelerate training requirements.
- Getting your background check and fingerprinting done as soon as possible.
Like many things in life, some of it is securely within your control. Some of it is not. Being responsive, patient, and focused is the best way to get through the intricate foster parent process. Another way to accomplish all this is to know the specific requirements you face.
Know Your State Requirements
The ultimate deciding factor of how long it takes to become a foster parent is where you live. Individual states have unique rules for foster parents, particularly for the training requirements. There are common training elements like CPR and therapeutic parenting skills, but the methods, hours, and additional requirements vary between states.
Knowing these precise rules and working towards addressing each will help the process go smoother and faster. Working with organizations like KVC will help you have a clear understanding of these requirements and help you complete them! Let’s look at the specific training requirements in Kansas, Nebraska, Kentucky, and West Virginia.
Foster parents undergo the “Trauma-Informed Partnering for Safety and Permanency – Model Approach for Partnerships in Parenting” (TIPS-MAPP) training. It is a ten-week course with three-hour classes per week. It can also be done on weekends. This training program includes two different home studies. Prospective parents also have to be licensed through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. More information about fostering through KVC in Kansas can be found here.
Nebraska also requires 30 hours of training, using the TIPPS-MAPP curriculum. Again, this is typically a 10-week course. However, these can potentially be done on weekends to help you get the training done faster. Be sure to look at our full breakdown of how KVC can help you get licensed in Nebraska here.
Kentucky requires Therapeutic Foster Care Training, which takes a minimum of 30-hours to complete. Typically, this training includes nine in-person classes and six online classes, but these can now be done completely online. Both portions take about 15-hours each, but this can take longer. More information about fostering through KVC in Kentucky can be found here.
West Virginia uses two training curriculums for licensing fosters. The first is Parent Resource Information Development and Education (PRIDE), which is a 30 hour training course. The second required training focuses on crisis de-escalation methods, called MANDT. Read our article on these requirements and how KVC can help you get licensed in West Virginia.
Worth the Work & the Wait
If you get frustrated, remember that there are so many things you just can’t control. The caseload of the foster worker can delay how quickly they can get your information processed. A thorough home inspector might find some safety issues with your home you need to fix. Even with best practices, you can experience delays and will still face wait time. Despite how long it might take, being a foster parent is worth it. Caring for a child needing love and a safe place is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have!
Remember, KVC is ready to help and support you in the fostering process. We work diligently to recruit, train, license, and support foster families. Start your foster parent journey here and learn about our free ongoing training, 24/7 support, and other services.