Your Foster Questions Answered by a Foster Expert and Foster-Adopt Dad
We asked our Instagram community to send us their questions about becoming a foster dad — and Amara's Foster Care Services Supervisor Trey Rabun responded.
Dad Trey Rabun (read his story here) recently shared his experience as a foster Expert and a foster dad with our Instagram community via a question and answer session.
Read Trey's responses below.
How much does it cost to become a foster dad?
Some agencies may charge a fee (typically a few thousand or less), but all states and most agencies don't charge for the foster parent licensing process. There will be some legal and attorney fees should you adopt a foster child. These range from $800-$1200 in the Seattle area.
How long will we have to wait till a child is placed with us?
This depends. There are typically more foster parents licensed for younger children (birth to 5) so your wait will be slightly longer for these children compared to an older or teen child. Given that, most states have a shortage of foster homes so at my agency most families get placed within 4-6 months regardless of their age parameters; with a significant number getting placed a lot quicker! Keep in mind, it takes anywhere from 3 months to a year+ to get licensed and approved before placement can occur.
Will we face discrimination as gay men?
I think a lot of this depends on local city and state laws and the general climate around LGBTQ acceptance where you live. Granted, homophobia sadly occurs everywhere but more and more localities have passed anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBTQ families in this process; including most "blue" states and cities.
How hard is it to adopt through the foster care system?
There are children in the foster care system who currently need an adoptive home after a judge has decided returning home is not a safe, viable option. These children tend to be school age or older and may have complex needs. Otherwise, the primary goal of foster care is to reunify children with their family so if you want a younger child and/or a child with lower needs you will need to be able to support reunification and the idea of having multiple placements before adopting a child/ren.
What can I do to ensure that we're agreeable candidates to be foster parents by an agency?
Do your research and check out websites to learn more information about the process and requirements. The requirements are there to ensure you will be a safe and stable home to a child in need. It will be an intrusive process, but the requirements aren't too burdensome. You can be single, a renter/live in apartment, and make a modest income. Also, HRC has a list of agencies that they work to ensure they are LGBTQ welcoming and affirming.
What do we have to do to get started?
After you've completed the things in the previous question, you need to choose what private or state agency you' like to work with for this process. Attend a few information sessions to learn more about that agency and their applicant and licensing process. I would also talk to current foster parents to get the "inside scoop" about the various agencies. Typically, all you need is the application to get things started. They will work with you to get your home ready and take you through the steps.
What does it take to become a foster dad?
After applying, you will begin the home study process. This will include writing a personal questionnaire detailing aspects of your life, both past and present. You will also be interviewed by a social worker who will also do a home inspection of your home to ensure its up to safety standards. You'll get a medical report from your doctor, have friends and family provide references, submit a financial statement, and get a background check completed. This process will culminate in the home study document which dictates the parameter of the child/ren you are approved to parent (age, sibling set, level of special needs, etc.)
How likely are we to be considered?
In theory, if you were able to get licensed you should be getting the same opportunities for placement consideration once approved. However, worker bias is a real thing but it's very hard to know when it has occurred since it's often subtle, and not blatant homophobia. Given that, in my eight years of doing this work there are two cases that come to mind where this occurred, so it happens, but not at a high rate. (Disclaimer: I live and work in socially liberal area so my experience may not be reflective of other communities in my state or other states).
Is it harder to become a foster dad if you're single rather than having a partner?
Yes and No. At my agency, our single parents go through the same process as partnered families, but we do ask more questions about a support network and who will play that role when a child is placed. There may also be times when the state is only seeking a two-parent home for some children like large sibling sets or children with high special needs.
As a foster dad yourself, what's the most important advice you have for fellow dads-to-be?
Be patient and to focus on being there for children in need. There will be times when things get frustrating and challenging and you may doubt yourself, that's normal! Between the paperwork and home study process to managing the needs and all the appointments of your foster children, it can be taunting at times. However, for every down moment there are a million ups and those are what keeps you going! There is nothing like experiencing the first time a child sleeps through the night because they finally feel safe in your home or a child who was two grade levels behind when they move in, but now are reading at grade level.
Who are the professionals involved in a foster journey? Who will I be dealing with daily?
You will work with a social worker to get licensed and approved. The children in your home will have a state assigned social worker that you'll interact with frequently. If you work with a private agency, you may also have a caseworker assigned to work with your family and provide extra support. Contact with the social worker and caseworker could range from daily, weekly, or monthly depending on the current level of support you need. At minimum, your social worker is legally required to come see you and the child monthly. The child could also have a Child Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)/Guardian At Litem (GAL) and/or a lawyer. There most likely will also be at least one service provider like a therapist, tutor, school counselor, etc. for your child that you will deal with as needed.