Below we have listed the frequently asked questions about foster children, our organization, family finding and gift-giving. We also get questions from the public, so you will probably find answers to a question you've always had.
Forever Homes for Foster Kids reunites foster children with their families. We do this by
locating a foster child’s adult relatives such as a grandparent or aunt. You might describe this
work as finding families. However, this activity of identifying, locating and notifying relatives is
called "family finding" by the Department of Human Services and social workers. State and
federal laws that are passed concerning foster children also reference this specific term.
We tend to use the term "family finding" because our organization often has to do more than just find a relative. We often work to identify family members that no one knows about so that there is the greatest possible chance that a foster child will be reconnected with at least one blood relative.
The idea behind family finding is that if enough relatives are located, then at least one will step up and offer to give the child a new home. At the very least, the child will have some connection to the family. In the best case, the foster child now has a forever home with loving family members.
There are several ways in which a child comes to be in foster care.
Each year, there are 100,000+ children who can be adopted out of foster care. Thousands of
children enter foster care because of physical and/or sexual abuse by a parent or guardian. Other
kids are abandoned or found homeless.
Once a foster child reaches 13 years old, the possibility of being adopted drops to roughly 1%. Sadly, foster teens know this reality. They know they are now locked into a system unless something happens like having their relatives located. These are the cases we receive the most, cases where the agencies are desperate for a solution. Case workers know that if a relative isn't found for a foster youth, then that child will most likely stay in the system until they age out.
Years ago potential parents could adopt a child in about six months. Now depending on where people live, the process can take years. Clearly there are issues and a pressing need to streamline the adoption policy in the U.S. to encourage more people to adopt a foster youth. Locating relatives who may want to take in a child and robust adoptions are two good solutions to helping foster children.
In half of the states, yes, foster kids do have to leave their foster home. At this time about half of the states have extended the age to 21.
What happens to a foster youth when they turn 18 depends in large part on where they live. In some states, foster kids who age out may leave with $100 in their pocket and a garbage bag of clothes. That's about it.
On the other hand, community programs are popping up, and some of these have been successful in helping foster children transition out of foster care. Many foster care agencies now have programs to help foster teens transition to adulthood by helping them to complete high school, if necessary, and to enter and stay in college. Some foster youths receive a stipend to help them with their living expenses.
However, an ongoing problem is that these kids don't know about these programs, or the programs are limited. The other challenge is that even with a stipend, the money may not be enough to cover books, transportation and other costs associated with college. To date, only 3% of foster kids who enter college graduate with a 4-year degree so much more needs to be done to help foster kids.
Finding and reuniting foster kids with their families is another way to help give these kids the stability and support they need to staying school and get training or the education they need to go on to have a brighter future.
These matters are handled at the state level, and we don't know which state is currently looking at increasing the "aging out" for foster teens from 18 to 21. To date about half of the states such as California and Tennessee have raised the age when foster youth are forced out of the foster care system to 21.
However, one concern is the growth of transitional services while agencies are still struggling to perform a quality search to find relatives. When more funding is allocated to reuniting foster kids with their families, then the need and greater cost of transitional programs can be better targeted to those foster kids who have no family.
The best place to start is with your county that generally oversees the foster care program in your area. While it can differ from state to state, you can be a foster parent as long as you are 21 years old, have the appropriate space for a child (determined by social services) and a job (continuous source of income). You usually do not have to be married, already have children or be of a specific sexual orientation.
Some agencies will, however, limit the total number of children (whether yours and foster kids) that can be in a household. Six children are often the maximum number. Also some agencies want a foster child to be with kids of a similar age. For instance, if you have a four-year-old and want to adopt a 10-year-old, the agency may have an issue with this.
One thing is that a child needs their own room. You could have three kids in the same room if their ages aren't too different, but one-bedroom homes rarely work.
Your first step is taking a home study course. This takes anywhere from 6-8 weeks. Once that is completed, there’s a home inspection done virtually in many places. This may be delayed depending on your county’s abilities during the coronavirus.
Does it take time? Yes, it does and over many weeks. And the payoff is helping a foster child who is spending their life in a huge group home, hospital or hotel room with no special attention and sadly little love.
If you are thinking of adopting, the best place to start is with your county that generally oversees the foster care program in your area. Every year there are thousands of children ranging from babies to teens. One state noted that about 15% of their foster children were children under five years old.
While it can differ from state to state, you can be an adoptive parent as long as you are over 21 years old, have the appropriate space for a child (determined by social services), and a job (continuous source of income). You usually do not have to be married, already have children or be of a specific sexual orientation.
Some states, such as Texas, have programs in place to minimize the cost of an adoption or to reimburse the costs of an adoption. Texas even has a program where they will partner you with someone who will be your guide through the process. However, every state has their own set of rules, and many counties within a state may have differing regulations.
The first step is usually to have a completed, current home study in the state where you are living. This may be delayed depending on your county’s abilities during the coronavirus.
Click here to go to our page that will tell you the many ways to help the foster children we serve. Some take just a couple of minutes. You can also volunteer your time to help with both our work and our advocacy for foster children.