What is foster care
Foster care is the temporary placement of children outside of their own homes. It occurs because of abuse, neglect, or other family problems. When possible, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and other agencies work with families to reunite them. When that’s not possible, measures are taken to get the children adopted — or prepared for independent life.
What is the need
In 2010 there were 15,514 children in substitute care in Illinois. That is about 1,000 less than the total population of Round Lake.
Many kinds of children will need foster homes. The children who currently need homes the most are African-American males, teen mothers and their babies, children with special medical needs, adolescents, siblings who need to stay together, Hispanic children, babies born with the HIV (AIDS) virus or with cocaine in their system.
You can express a preference on the age, race, and sex of the child that you think would best fit in with your family. You do not have to accept a child you do not want.
Most the children in foster care have some problems, to some degree. Many are frightened and confused at the sudden separation from their parents. Some are angry. Others may think they are being sent to a foster home as punishment. Even babies may be extremely fretful and irritable at first. These problems gradually lessen, though, as a foster child comes to know that you care for him or her.
Foster parents in “regular” foster care programs receive a monthly check to cover the child’s food, clothing and personal allowance. The amount of the check is based on the child’s age. Each child also receives a Medicaid card from the state to cover medical expenses.
Qualifications to become a licensed foster parent
Most people who can provide an adequate and loving home are eligible to foster. As a foster parent you:
- may be single, married, divorced, or separated and living apart from a spouse for 12 months or longer.
- may or may not have birth or adopted children.
- must be at least 21 years of age.
- must be able to financially manage the addition of a child or children to the family, although there are no specific income requirements.
- must have no criminal history that will prevent you from being licensed to adopt.
Becoming a foster parent in the State of Illinois requires a license. This license is obtained from the state, either through DCFS or through one of the private agencies that provides foster care and child welfare services. Obtaining a foster care license takes an average of 3-6 months and involves several components including, but not limited to:
- an orientation meeting during which you will learn about DCFS and the needs of children who require a foster home. You will also learn about the foster care licensing process. In Illinois, families must receive a license before foster children come to live with them. Licensing ensures that children are placed with nurturing families and in homes that meet the standards set by DCFS.
- an application for licensure.
- criminal background check with fingerprinting.
- training classes (an average of 9-30 hours) provided by the agency.
- home study and interviews.
- Before issuing a license, the agency will make sure that your home is a safe place for children. Generally, a foster home will be clean, well ventilated, lighted, heated and free of fire hazards. Have a safe water supply. Provide protection from poisoning and injury. Have room for a child and have an operating telephone or quick access to a telephone.
How to become a foster parent
Anyone who desires to become a foster or adoptive parent can call 800-572-2390. Your interest will result in a local DCFS or private child welfare agency representative contacting you about foster care. A representative will then make an appointment to come to your home to help you decide if foster care or adoption is a good plan for your family.