Foster Care | video length: 15 minutes
Hi, I'm Jesse.
And I'm Rosanna.
Welcome to the Arizona Department of Child Safety, Foster Care, and Adoption Orientation Video. We'll be your hosts as we get you started on your foster care journey.
We are so excited that you are interested in learning more about being a caregiver to Arizona's children. During this video, we'll provide you with information about fostering children, providing kinship care, and starting the adoption process, and most importantly, tips on how to select an agency to help support and guide you throughout your adventure.
Before we begin, we just want to say thank you for taking the first step to help Arizona children in need. The incredible support that foster, kinship, and adoptive caregivers provide for children is what makes communities special. The children of Arizona deserve someone caring like you to help them during a difficult time in their life.
Now, let's go to Chanetta who is going to give us some important information to help you make the decision on the type of care you want to provide.
By far, the greatest need for foster homes in Arizona is for children aged 13 to 17, followed by children aged 9 to 12. While we do need families willing to take infants, we really need families for school-aged youth and sibling groups. During the licensure process, your licensing specialists will support you in identifying an age range of children to provide care for. We hope this information assists you with making that decision. Children come into foster care through no fault of their own. They have been temporarily removed from their families and are in need of a safe and loving home. The children of Arizona are the responsibility of all of us, and you could be the difference in a child's life.
Throughout the rest of this orientation video, we will go through the details and important information to know about foster, kinship care, and adoption including licensing, certification, and expectations of caregivers.
Umm, Jessie, before we move on, one quick question: what's the difference between foster, kinship, and adoption?
Oh yeah, it's ... actually ... it might be better if we get Chanetta to tell us.
Foster care is a temporary arrangement with the goal of reunification.
There are five types of foster care:
- Unlicensed Kinship: providing care to a kinship member without a license.
- Licensed Kinship: providing care to a kinship member under a state-issued license.
- Licensed Foster Care: providing temporary care to children who are not related to the licensee.
- Licensed Respite Foster Care: providing short-term care in your home for children who have been placed in another foster home.
- And In-Home Respite Care, providing short-term care for children in someone else's licensed foster home.
- All foster caregivers must go through the state licensing process to provide care for children they are not related to.
Adoption is a permanency decision that is made at the end of a case, which is different from providing foster or kinship care. Adoption is a permanent legal decision approved by the court that makes you the child's legal parent and gives you the same rights and responsibilities you have for a biological child.
Thanks, Chanetta. Now let's move on to the next chapter, where we'll learn more about the requirements and expectations for foster parents.
And I know just the person who can help us out: an actual foster parent will help explain some of the details and important information about foster care.
Hi. My name is Jermaine. And I've been fostering children for five years. Foster caregivers do invaluable work every day by providing love and support for children during a difficult time in their lives. I can tell you from firsthand experience, it's an endlessly rewarding role. But there's also an incredible amount of work that requires being a part of a team and total commitment and passion for helping children.
It is expected as a foster caregiver, that you treat the children in your home as though they are family, while understanding that they are with you on a temporary basis. Foster caregivers support the plan to help reunify children with their families. AZDCS promotes shared parenting, which allows foster caregivers to partner with and support birth parents. This helps children feel more comfortable in your home. When children are removed from their homes. They don't stop loving and worrying about their parents, and their parents don't stop loving and caring about them. Shared parenting allows them to remain connected, safely.
The safety of you and your family is very important, but AZDCS does expect and encourage you to have at least minimal contact with the child's birth family. Ways to engage with birth parents can include sending notebooks back and forth, phone calls or video calls between visits, and sharing updates like photos or schoolwork between visits. Each of these things helped reinforce a healthy shared parenting experience. You may also want to reach out to other members of the child's family, like a sibling, to help maintain their family connection.
AZDCS strives to keep sibling groups together. You may amend your license to help keep siblings together as siblings may not always come into care at the same time. Helping children in care is a gift not only for the children but for yourself. You are not alone in this journey. You are part of a team that successfully engages children and their families to ensure safety, strengthen families and achieve permanency.
Wow. I don't know about you, but I want to be a foster parent now.
I don't think you can be a foster parent when you're a kid. Remember, you have to be 21. Actually, there are a few more requirements and expectations for foster parents. Another AZDCS friend, Theresa, is going to tell us all about it.
Foster care provides a temporary home for children in the custody of the state who are not able to safely live with their current family. The primary goal of foster care is to reunite children with their family, and foster caregivers are expected to assist with that reunification process. This requires you to follow the case plan that is created by the Arizona Department of Child Safety and be an active participant in meetings that involve the child in your care. This may include school meetings or court hearings, doctor's appointments, and more. Finally, you're expected to be an advocate for the children in your home, ensuring that their needs are met.
The following are the basic licensing requirements to become a foster parent.
- You must be at least 21 years of age and be present in the United States legally.
- You can be single, married, or in a relationship.
- If you're married, both parties of the marriage must complete all licensing requirements.
- The department welcomes diverse families regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion.
- You have to pass the FBI and local criminal background check and have a Level 1 fingerprint clearance card issued by the Department of Public Safety.
- In addition, you have to successfully complete the foster parent training, participate in an extensive interview process with your licensing specialist, pass a home safety inspection, and be medically qualified by a healthcare professional.
- You will also have to be able to meet your own living expenses without relying on the stipend provided by the state to ensure that you are able to care for the children who may be placed in your home.
The length of the licensing process depends on how quickly you and your agency complete the training, paperwork, and inspections. The average time frame from intake to licensed is four to six months. Please understand that much of the process is self-driven and will be determined by timeliness in completing and submitting paperwork, obtaining a Level 1 fingerprint card for all adult members of your household, or any home modifications that may be needed to pass the life safety inspection. As a licensed foster parent, you must continue meeting the licensing requirements for as long as you are licensed. Any changes to your home or living situation must be reported to your licensing agency.
The children that come into care come from diverse backgrounds that may be different from your family. We understand that your family has their own cultural and religious practices and encourage your family to include the children in your cultural activities. The child may have their own as well, and the responsibility lies with the caregiver to assist the child in getting their spiritual and cultural needs met. This is a great opportunity for your family and the child to get to know each other.
It will also be important for your families who engage with your team to best support meeting that child's needs. This will include supporting the religious beliefs, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and cultural practices of the children and youth placed in your home. A child in your care may be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning of their sexuality. Your team can assist in identifying training, support and understanding of other religions, cultures and backgrounds to ensure you can provide the best care for the child.
It is also important to know how to communicate and discipline the children in your care. Children in foster care have experienced significant trauma in their past, and physical punishment of any kind is not permitted. Even the threat of physical punishment goes against AZDCS practices. Instead, structured discipline and positive reinforcement are used to teach children how to change their own behaviors. Your licensing specialist, along with the child's team, will be there to help you navigate and gain these skills as you go through your journey.
AZDCS understands and respects that you know best when it comes to immunizations for your children. However, due to department policy, children ages 0 - 5 and/or with certain medical conditions may not be placed in the home where the biological or adopted children in the home have not been immunized. This will be part of the discussion with your licensing agency about your licensing parameters.
Foster caregivers may own firearms and other weapons. However, all guns must be stored in a locked container, unloaded and have a trigger lock. Ammunition must be locked and stored separately. All other weapons must be made inoperable or safeguarded. Conversations such as immunizations and firearms are part of life safety inspection preparation. Your agency will complete a preliminary inspection to advise you on the requirements to be successful when the state performs the official inspection.
That may seem like a lot of rules and work. But it's all there to help protect Arizona's children.
Yeah. And know that AZDCS staff members and your licensing agency – your team – are here to help guide you through every step of the process.
Let's check back with Jermaine and hear about his experience after getting licensed and the support he got from AZDCS.
The licensing process was pretty easy. The main thing that it did was allow me to learn things about myself that I did not know before then. I think my biggest fear was that I wasn't going to be good enough to take care of this kid. I really discovered that I didn't have to be perfect. And I didn't have to get everything right, I guess in my eyes. What I needed to do was bring my best self to the table and make myself available to this kid that just needed someone. And that was enough.
Flexibility in preferences is a key part of being a foster caregiver. When a child is first removed from their family, we may not have all the information on the child's individual needs. Caregivers are often resources in learning more about the child and their needs.
Remember that children in foster care have experienced trauma. Children come into foster care through no fault of their own. They've been removed because they could not safely remain in their homes. Removing a child from everything familiar to them is traumatic. Sometimes children who've experienced trauma may not be able to express their feelings with words, so they may express themselves through their behavior. Often children with the most challenging behaviors are the ones who need our care the most.
When the time comes for a child to reunify with their families, saying goodbye can be challenging, but it's a moment that should be celebrated. It's an opportunity to continue to support that child and their family’s continued success. Remember, foster care is not a permanent arrangement. And when it's time for the children to move on, foster parents need to know how to manage grief in their own household.
Attachment is a good thing for both you and the child. If the child can attach and trust you, they'll be able to do the same with others in their lives. And this leads them to a healthier future. You'll always remember the time these children spent in your home. Some families even honor the children and their impact by creating a wall for each child's artwork or their names or handprints.
There are many financial supports available for foster caregivers. Please note that the funds may not cover the entire cost of caring for a child in foster care. All children in foster care have medical, dental, prescription insurance and are provided with behavioral health services. In addition, children ages zero to five in foster care are eligible for WIC, and school-aged children qualify for free school lunches. Licensed foster caregivers receive financial reimbursement for each child they're caring for. Some basic supports might include child care assistance when needed, clothing personal allowances, and special funds for events such as graduation.
In addition to the financial supports available to foster families, there are other supports that are available as well. Clothing resources, support groups, ongoing training, 24-hour behavioral health crisis line and foster parent liability insurance are also available. Warm Line is another support. It is a free and confidential telephone service staffed by peers who offer support and compassion for callers who need help. It can be with anything from behavioral health problems, or just if you need someone to talk to. Remember when you become a foster parent you become a part of a team and the members of your team include the child in your care, you the foster parent, the birth parents, the family members, AZDCS case managers, licensing specialists, the behavioral health providers, the Foster Care Review Board, Court Appointed Special Advocates (also known as CASAs), the courts and the attorneys. You'll get to know all of these people very well. And they are incredibly valuable and supportive during and after your foster care training.
Well, that wraps up our section on foster care. If you have any more questions about becoming a foster caregiver, check out azdcs.gov/foster.