Foster Parent FAQ

What qualities should I possess to become a foster parent?
Successful foster parents are dedicated, open-minded, reliable and extremely patient. The ability to be flexible and adapt to a child's changing needs creates a successful environment where kids can feel safe and thrive. All of our most successful families have strong support from their extended family and friends.

Do I need to own a home to be a foster parent?
No, but you must have a stake in the residence, such as a rental/lease agreement, mortgage or other similar legal interest. Apartments, duplexes, condominiums, single-family homes of various sizes, and mobile homes are all acceptable dwellings, as long as they meet state safety standards. You must also have sufficient additional bedroom space for children.

How old do I have to be to become a foster parent?
The state minimum age to become a foster parent is 21 years old. Because of the older population of youth generally referred to Children's Bureau for placement, we prefer individuals or couples to be 25 years or older.

How much does it cost to become a foster parent?
Most of the cost is covered by Children's Bureau. Applicants are responsible for the cost of having a doctor complete health screening forms for all household members. There may be a fee to obtain a criminal background check at your local law enforcement agency.  Applicants must pay the cost of a national background check up front, but reimbursement is available upon licensure.

Can people who identify as gay or lesbian be foster parents?
We welcome and affirm all sexual orientations as long as you meet all the minimum qualifications and comply with licensing requirements. Like every foster family, you will need a strong network of support from family and friends. We will be glad to discuss any unique characteristics your family may have and how they may impact your role as a foster family.

I have a criminal record. Can I become a foster parent?
Depending on the nature of the crime, you may be disqualified from obtaining a foster family license. Please contact us to determine the effect your record will have on your application.

How long does it take to become a licensed foster parent?
The amount of time varies based on a number of factors, including the applicants motivation of completing and turning in paperwork. Other factors, such as some background checks and the return of references, are out of the control of the applicant. Applicants should expect the process to take somewhere between 90 to 180 days.

How do I become a foster parent?
You have already taken the first step by researching our website. Chances are you have reviewed the website content from other agencies and are considering which agency will best meet your needs as a foster care provider. We encourage you to continue your research, create a list of questions, then contact the agencies (or DCS Office in the County where you reside) you're most interested in working with for more information. Once you make your final decision, the agency will provide you with guidance and instruction on your next steps, including training, background checks, and documentation. See also "Become a Foster Parent" tab on the homepage of this website for more details of how to apply to be a foster family with Children's Bureau, Inc.

Why are children placed in foster care?
The Indiana Department of Child Services may sometimes find it is necessary to place children/youth with a temporary caregiver in order to protect them, prevent further harm, or because they have been abandoned. There are also times when it is necessary to place children into temporary care because the child has needs which their parents are unable to meet. The resources used to care for children who are taken into foster care may be relatives, non-blood kin, foster families, or emergency shelters. Children may be placed into care by the Department of Child Services or the Probation Department.

Will I have to interact with the child's parent(s)?
There may be cases where you will interact with and have ongoing contact with your foster child's family of origin. This contact may range from authorized phone communication between the child and their family, arranged visitation & parenting time, or in rare cases acting as a mentor for the child's parent(s). The level of interaction you will have with the family will depend on the needs of the child. In some cases, foster families have little or no contact with the child's family. If you desire limited or no contact with a child's family, this will reduce the number of children who can be considered for placement in your home.

Will I receive financial compensation as a foster parent?
As a licensed foster family, you will receive maintenance payments (or reimbursement) for the care of children placed in your home. This payment is provided in the form of a daily rate called a per diem and is paid monthly. The per diem rate is determined based on the age of the child and the amount of effort required to adequately supervise the child. This payment is provided to cover the expense of food, clothing, shelter, transportation, recreation, allowance, gifts, daycare, and other necessities. Maintenance payments should not be considered income, used for sustaining the financial obligations of the household, or for securing loans.

How will my children be affected by foster children?
In some way, every household member will be affected by foster children entering and leaving the home. Children are especially influenced by the impressions of other people, including peers, neighbors, family, school-mates, and foster siblings. If your expectations and moral values have been consistently repeated to your children and they already have a sense of appropriate behavior, then it is not likely that your children will be adversely influenced by foster children. Your family will experience excitement, happiness, sadness, and loss as foster children come into your lives or depart your home. Adding foster children to your home will disrupt the birth-order (rank) of your children. Children who are excited about being a foster brother or sister initially may not be fully prepared for the reality of sharing their space, belongings, and family members with foster children and may become jealous. They will need time to adjust to their new rank as an older/younger sibling. Children's Bureau foster care case managers are available throughout the placement of the child to assist the foster family with any successes, joys or challenges that may arise.

Where can foster children sleep?
Foster children must be assigned to an individual bed for sleep. Children of the same gender may share a bedroom as long as suitable space and storage is available for their use (closet and drawer space). The bedroom must be constructed for the purpose of a bedroom, and no household children can reside in bedrooms located in a basement. Beds must have a frame, box spring, and mattress, except for beds which substitute platforms for box springs (i.e. cribs, toddler beds, bunk beds, or platform beds).

What kind of support will I receive from Children's Bureau?
Each child is assigned a Foster Care Case Manager (FCCM) who is responsible for providing primary support to the foster family and the individual child. Every family will receive basic supports, such as respite, maintenance payments and other financial reimbursements, advice & guidance, training, 24-hour crisis support, and logistical support. Additionally, other planned supports that are specific to the child will be arranged by the treatment team as needed. These may be provided by Children's Bureau, Inc. or another service provider.

I am single, can I be a foster parent?
Foster parents may be married, coupled/partnered, single, widowed, or divorced.

I have never had children. Will I make a good foster parent?
Applicants who come to Children's Bureau who have never parented children have an excellent record of providing stable, nurturing care for foster children. Sometimes, "childless" parents perform well because they do not have a reference to "compare" foster children. You will have access to professional staff assigned to the child placed in your home who you can consult with and get advice. You should also have a strong support system of family and friends prior to applying for a foster family license.

Can I adopt my foster child?
The primary goal for a child placed in foster care is to be successfully reunified with his family of origin. In cases where children are unable to return to their family, their permanency plan may change to adoption. When this happens, the foster parent has the right to be considered as a pre-adoptive family and the opportunity to file for adoption.

Is it more difficult to foster a teenager than a young child?
Many people choose to care for younger children because of the misconception that young children are more easily redirected or that teens may be too stubborn to change. The truth is far different. Teens and adolescents need love and guidance as much as younger children do. Most are desperate for a chance to live in a stable, supportive home with a responsible, caring parent and positive role model. No matter what the child's age, with consistency and structure, they will improve their behavior and make better choices.

How many foster children can I have at one time?
The capacity of a foster home depends on various factors, including: available space and bedding, children already residing in the home, the level of care a foster child needs, the parents' capabilities, and other considerations. Most foster families licensed through Children's Bureau, Inc. accept anywhere from one to three children. Families who are willing to care for larger sibling groups are needed and encouraged to apply.

I'm not sure we were the best match for this child, how can I tell?
When accepting a child for placement, foster parents should do so with the intent of successfully seeing the case through until the child either returns to his family or is adopted by a forever family. Children who are in foster care have a strong need for security and may exhibit their best behavior during the first month of placement (honeymoon period). As they build trust and connection with the family, they will begin to relax and may become outwardly expressive regarding their feelings (including anger and discontent), or they may even test boundaries. This end to the honeymoon period can appear to the foster parent as a failing or deterioration, making them question whether or not the placement is a good match. Often, the reality is that the parent is doing a good job. Allowing time, the parent will notice improvements, but it is there will be challenges to remain steadfast and on task to overcome the trauma the child/youth has experienced during their life.

Disruptions in placement have lasting effects and are destructive to the child emotionally, physically, and academically. Foster parents are asked to truly consider their commitment prior to accepting a child for placement. We realize that information provided to foster parents during initial placement is not always thorough or complete, and information or behaviors may later surface which places the others in the home or the child themselves at risk of harm or injury. When you have a concern or problem, you should consult with your Foster Care Case Manager who will assess the service needs of the child and help you come to a conclusion if the placement can be preserved with additional supports or if placing the child in a more suitable or, perhaps even more restrictive, setting is necessary.
I like to travel for vacations.

Can my foster child travel with me?
Children in foster care may travel with their foster parents as long as permission is obtained from the DCS county office. The child may not always be able to accompany the family on trips due to various reasons, especially if a youth has restrictions on travel or important appointments to occur during the planned travel. If your travel is business related and/or occurs frequently, please discuss this with a member of our Licensing Dept., as this may not be a situation that is favorable to your being a licensed foster parent at this time.

Am I allowed to have pets in my home?
Pets (dogs, cats, and ferrets) are required to have up-to-date rabies vaccinations and must consistently remain current with their rabies shots annually. Other pets are also allowable. Any pet known to be vicious or potentially harmful to children (or workers entering the home) must be removed from the premises. If a vicious pet exist in your home and you are reluctant to remove the pet, you should delay becoming a licensed foster family.

Who are the children most in need of foster care?
We currently have the most need for teenaged youth (both males and females) and for sibling groups or varying age ranges. Homes are needed for all ethnicities, but especially for children who are Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic, and bi-racial. Foster families who are capable of communicating with Spanish-speaking children are also in demand.

I am currently unemployed. Can I be a full-time foster parent?
Foster Parents must have a self-sustaining, stable income. If you are not employed, but have a stable income source (such as retirement, SSDI benefits, Social Security, trust fund, etc.) you may apply to be a licensed foster parent. The household income should be sufficient to cover all of your family's financial expenses. If you are receiving temporary aid, such as unemployment, TANF, or other welfare assistance, then you should delay your application until you have a steady income from gainful employment or another source of non-assistance income. Additionally, you will need financial reserves which will allow you to absorb the cost of caring for a foster child or sibling for up to six (6) weeks before receiving a maintenance payment from the agency.

If I have a disability or illness, will that prevent me from being a foster parent?
This depends on your condition and the impact it has on your ability to parent children with special needs. Because each disability or illness is unique to the individual, it is best to consult with a member of our licensing department to determine if fostering is an option for you at this time. Having a disability or illness of a parent or household member will not, necessarily, exclude you from being a licensed foster family.

I use public transportation. Do I have to own a car to be a foster parent?
Because of the volume of transportation needs for foster children, utilizing public transportation is challenging. The use of public transportation does not allow foster parents to efficiently and quickly respond to urgent transport needs of foster children (such as ER visits, calls from school, etc.). Even the use of taxi cabs prohibits the efficient, timely arrival of foster children to visitations and appointments. Children's Bureau, Inc. strongly recommends the foster parent have access to personal transportation for which they are licensed and insured to drive.

Who pays for childcare/daycare?
Many children require an adult nearby at all times. In the foster parent's absence, finding a substitute caregiver (babysitter, daycare, etc.) is the responsibility of the foster parent. The cost of substitute care is also the responsibility of the foster parent. Foster parents may apply for CCDF - a state program that assists with daycare costs, however there may be a waiting period before assistance begins.

How long will a child stay in my home?
Information available on Indiana Department of Child Services' website indicate that the average length of stay for a child in a non-relative foster home is roughly 1 year. However, the actual length of stay for any particular child is unpredictable as the amount of time children remain in foster care varies greatly. Once placed in your home, the child could remain for as little as one night, a few weeks, into the months, or even a year or longer. Some children may eventually become adoptable opening the opportunity for the child to become a permanent part of your family!