You made the decision to become a foster mom or dad, what happens next? We will walk you through the process so you know what to expect.
My husband and I spent the last 5 years helping care for my parents. Sadly my Mom passed away after a 5-year struggle with Breast Cancer and my Dad had been in poor health ever since she passed. He died this past January after being in inpatient treatment for a year. Both of my parents died very young. My husband and I built a life that revolved around helping care for our parents and we intentionally put off having children in order to support our family.
Death changes you and really makes you question your own life. It really makes you think about what is important in life. My husband and I have always wanted a family, but recently we made the decision to do things a little different, we decided we want to foster to adopt a child in need of a good home.
We live in Southern New Jersey and in May we filled out an application to become foster parents, ultimately adoptive parents. The program takes about 6 months to go through in New Jersey and we are halfway through the process. The foster program can be invasive and personal, but let’s be honest the screening process should be comprehensive, in order to protect the children.
Why are kids in the Foster System?
We learned kids are in the system for a number of reasons. The long and short of it is the biological parents were unable to care for the children and the state intervened. The parents could have a bad relationship with drugs or alcohol, cognitive/mental health battles, abuse, or parents could terminate rights at birth, etc. Each child has their own unique story, but ultimately, they just need a safe place and love until their parents are better or until parental rights are terminated.
What are the parental requirements?
- Rent or own a home with room for one or more children
- Background and fingerprint checks for everyone in the household
- Recommendations from neighbors and friends
- Health Care Records
- Tax Returns, W2 and/or other financial records
- Copies of Social Security Cards, Driver Licenses, Car registration, Insurance, etc.
What is the interview process like?
A number of people will come to your house to complete assessments. Initially, you’ll have a rep from the state come talk to you and fill out the first round of paperwork, including an application. The state will tour your house and let you know what you need to childproof the house. We had a few things to update: installing baby gates on the stairs, child locks on cabinets, baby proof the electrical sockets, clean the grease trap on the exhaust fan, and turn down the water heater temperature.
The next step is meeting with your resource rep and/or social worker. Ours is amazing, very caring and helpful. He is very accommodating to our work schedule and you can tell he really loves his job. We filled out more paperwork about the age, race, disability, personalities of the children we would welcome into our home. Also, we filled out personal questionnaires about your upbringing, support systems in place, family, etc. If you have a spouse or significant other they are interviewed separately at some point. Children in your home will answer a few questions as well.
You will be asked about everything from how many times a week you have sex with your spouse, to money, to drug or alcohol use, to if you watch porn and past abuse. I wasn’t kidding when I said the state will be all up in your business. It is very, very invasive so be an open book. We were very honest and you should be too.
We are scheduled to start classes in September. We will take classes 2 times a week for a few months. Each class is three hours long. I’ll update the blog once we start the class.
The state has a lot of resources for a new foster mom, like myself. I spoke with a foster mom who has held 68 children in her house of the years, she was a wealth of knowledge.
Also, ask if your county has a private facebook group for parents. I’ve connected with so many foster moms, who have provided me so much help.
Tips to help with expenses:
Fostering can be expensive if you let it. The state provides you around $700 a month when you have a child. But you are required to have the house baby proofed and age-appropriate furniture, such as cribs and dressers for your future foster children.
My saving grace has been Facebook Market Place and friends who have hand me downs. It’s important that you know car seats, cribs and strollers do have expiration dates, so you have to be very careful with what you get 2nd hand. We live near a very rich neighborhood and we see a lot of posts of families giving stuff away for free, a lot of it still in their boxes.
A neighbor gave us a brand-new pack and play for $25. We received a stroller, infant car seat and base for free and it was brand new. Our friends have provided old clothes and toys. If car seats have been involved in an accident they are no longer usable, so ask questions if you are looking at 2nd hand items.
Once we finish the course work, we will be eligible for our first foster child. We picked an age range where we will need to buy diapers, wipes, toys, and food of course. We are going to hold off on those items until will know the age of the child we get. The Foster care program can vary from county to county and state to state.
As a new Foster Mom, I read all the books and course handouts. I’ve also asked my mom friends a myriad of questions. But like any new mom, you will learn on the job.
If you are anxious check out our piece on how to cope with anxiety It’s normal, especially for first time Foster Moms and Dads.
Sound off in the comments if you have tips and tricks for new Foster parents.