Frequently Asked Questions

What is Foster Care?

If you look up “foster” in the dictionary, you’ll see a definition for a verb meaning to raise, bring up or give parental care to. And, in the realm of child welfare, that’s pretty much spot on. In a situation when a youth can’t live with their guardian, they may live with another individual or family members while working towards reunification. Foster Care is the system created to protect children, often those who are abused, neglected or abandoned or whose parents are unable to fulfill their parenting obligations due to illness, behavioral health issues and/or addiction.

 

What is a Resource Parent? 

  • A Resource Parent (formerly called a foster parent) is someone who is trained and approved to care for children, siblings or teens who have been removed from their home due to abuse and/or neglect.
  • Potential resource parents may choose from three AFS foster programs designed to be solution-focused, strength-based, needs-driven, community-centered and culturally competent: Treatment Foster Care, Intensive Services Foster Care (ISFC) and Family Alternatives for Children with Developmental Disabilities (FACDD).
  •  Click here for California's Resource Family Approval Written Directives.

 

What are some of the responsibilities of a resource parent? 

Resource parents provide children and youth with a safe, stable, nurturing, and loving environment for the duration of the child’s stay in their care. Every child placed with an AFS resource family has a service plan with a goal of permanency. Resource parents work closely with AFS staff to support the foster youth with:

  • community integration and social skills
  • going to medical, dental, and behavioral health care appointments
  • learning appropriate life and behavioral skills
  • supporting the child’s educational needs

 

What is the difference between a resource parent and adoptive parent? 

  • A resource parent is part of a treatment team that collaborates in supporting foster youth while the youth remains a ward of the state. A county representative and an AFS caseworker is often involved in making decisions about important matters.  
  • A permanent, stable, and loving environment is always the goal for foster youth. When reunifying with biological family is not an option, the hope is a forever home can be found via the fost-adopt process. To adopt a foster youth, individuals and families must first be approved as resource parents. An adoptive parent has the same parental rights and obligations as biological parents or legal guardians. 

 

Who are the children and teens placed in AFS foster homes? 

  • Northern California youth placed in AFS resource family homes are dependents of the state who are referred by county social services departments.
  • AFS places youth and young adults 0-18 years old who are removed from their families due to physical/mental abuse, neglect, maltreatment, or family crisis.

 

How long do children stay in a foster home? 

  • The goal in every case is to work towards building a stable, permanent relationship. Possibilities include reunification with biological family, placement with biological relatives, adoption by resource parents or emancipation for older youth.
  • In California, youth in foster care are eligible to receive services until they are 21 years old.
  • Foster youth may stay in care from a few days up to many months. In some rare cases, foster children might stay for years.

 

How are foster children matched with foster homes? 

  • The AFS approval team conducts an in-depth assessment including a family evaluation, home visits and personal interviews with every potential resource family.
  • During the assessment phase, AFS carefully considers the abilities and preferences expressed by the family and the unique needs of the foster child.
  • Every foster placement is considered an agreement among the resource parents, AFS staff, county social workers, biological parents (in some cases) and the foster youth (if old enough).
  • Foster care and fost-adopt parents are an integral part of the treatment team, which can include the county social worker, AFS social worker, therapist, teachers, and other resource individuals.

 

Do I/we have any choice about who gets placed in our home?

  • Yes! At AFS we work as a team to ensure a good placement for everyone. AFS resource families have a definite say in the youth who is placed in their home. Your family, the child and the social worker are all incredibly involved in the process.

 

Does a foster child need his/her own room? 

  • California state regulations require that no more than two children of the same gender and within five years of age may share a room.
  • Each child must have his or her own bed, closet space and dresser.
  • A foster child may not share a room with an adult (18+) unless the child is under 2 years of age.

 

What does it cost to become a foster or fost-adopt parent? 

  • The California Department of Justice requires a modest fee for fingerprinting, along with Criminal, FBI and Child Abuse Index clearances. AFS pays this cost for resource parents applicants at the appropriate stage of the process.
  • Adoptive parents are asked to pay for these clearances up front and will be reimbursed at the time of adoption finalization.

 

What financial support does AFS provide to resource parents? 

  • Resource Parents receive a monthly stipend per child, and that amount is set by the state of California based on the age of the child and program placement. These rates can be found by clicking this link: CA Foster Care Rate Settings Page
  • Reimbursement funds assist resource parents for the cost of the foster youth's room, board, clothing, transportation, and other incidentals.
  • In addition to the monthly reimbursement, foster and adoptive parents with children in care receive $75 (taxable) for attending monthly training meetings.
  • Medical and dental expenses are covered by Medi-Cal. Each child receives behavior health therapy as needed. This reimbursement is not considered income and it is not taxable. You should consult with a tax professional for details relating to your personal situation.
  • Resource Parents receive a monthly stipend per child, and that amount is set by the state of California based on the age of the child and program placement. These rates can be found by clicking this link: CA Foster Care Rate Settings Page
  • Families adopting a foster youth are also eligible for a one–time federal tax credit (rate and is subject to income limits). You can find the annual tax credit rate at:Adoption Tax Credit. You should consult with a tax professional for additional information.

 

How does the Adoption Program work?

  • AFS provides adoption services for families wishing to build their family through the adoption of children in foster care.
  • Families must be approved as a foster or fost-adopt family before being able to adopt a youth from foster care.
  • Foster youth must be placed in your home for a minimum of six months before an adoption can be finalized.
  • Once you have completed and been approved for an adoption family evaluation, your social worker will begin the adoptable youth search process. Being matched with a child is a careful process that includes interviews and a plan to transition the child into your home.

 

Can resource parents adopt their foster children? 

  • Permanent, legal adoption into a new family may be the best outcome for a foster youth. While not all foster youth are eligible for adoption, there are many who are unable to return to their biological families and are adopted by their AFS resource parents.
  • Individuals or couples may also choose to become a foster-adoptive (fost-adopt) parent with the specific intent of adopting a child from the foster care system. AFS will support you without charge through all steps of the legal adoption process.

 

What are the risks fost-adopt programs? 

  • There are varying degrees of risk, which you and your family will need to explore with your AFS social worker. When a child is placed with a fost-adopt family, the child’s permanency options are often being evaluated in two directions: adoption and family reunification. This is called “concurrent planning” and can be an emotionally difficult time for both the birth family and the hopeful adoptive family.
  • In other cases, the child’s permanency plan is moving more definitively in the direction of adoption, or it may simply be a question of a pending court decision to terminate parental rights.

 

How does AFS support resource families? 

  • A family’s AFS social worker is available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day by phone for urgent matters.
  • AFS social workers meet with you at least twice a month to discuss the child’s progress and to develop and implement a treatment plan.
  • AFS has monthly support groups for parents to gather with other resource parents to talk about their experiences, trials, tribulations and joys. Foster and adoptive parents have a unique parenting experience that can benefit other families going through this complicated process. Their knowledge and enthusiasm for their foster and adoption experience is invaluable.

 

Who provides health and dental care for foster youth? 

  • Medi-Cal fully covers a foster child’s medical and dental care. Foster parents must keep every foster child current on all medical and dental appointments and vaccinations. AFS will assist foster families in this process.

 

May a foster child be placed in a home where there are already children living? 

  • Yes. Many foster families have both biological and foster children already living in their homes. It is important to involve a foster family’s biological children in the fostering process, allowing them to voice their feelings, questions, and concerns.

 

Do foster youth have contact with biological family? 

  • The goal for every AFS foster child is to establish a stable, permanent environment to grow and thrive. Reunification with their biological family members is desirable if possible and every case is unique. When the service plan calls for family reunification, AFS coordinates the therapeutic visits between foster children and biological family members. The names and addresses of foster families remain confidential, when necessary. In other cases, contact between the child and the biological parents may be forbidden.

 

What are the educational responsibilities of a foster parent? 

  • AFS assists resource families in enrolling the foster child in a public educational program that suits the child’s needs. It is the resource parent’s responsibility to supervise the child’s attendance and monitor their educational progress. AFS maintains communication with the school, teachers, and foster parents to assure the child stays on track academically and behaviorally. In some cases, AFS may provide tutors for AFS foster children.

 

Can I take a foster child to my place of worship? 

  • Compatibility between the resource family and foster youth’s belief system is taken into consideration during the assessment period prior to placement when the information is available.
  • AFS encourages resource families to include foster children in all family activities, including religious activities if the foster child chooses to participate.
  • Every child has the right to choose their own faith and which services to attend.
  • Resource parents need an approved respite plan in place if the child chooses not to attend worship services with you.

 

I work. Can I still become a Resource Parent? 

  • Yes! If you have a full-time or part-time job, you are still eligible to become a Resource Parent.
  • Those on fixed incomes, like retirees, can also become Resource Parents.

 

Is It necessary to be married to become a Resource Parent? 

  • No, it is not necessary to be married in order to be a Resource Parent. Individuals who are in single, divorced or in domestic partnerships can become Resource Parents.

 

What happens if a placement is unsuccessful? 

  • AFS makes every effort to ensure that a foster child has a successful placement including 24/7 support for foster families. In some unique situations a change in placement may be necessary. AFS caseworkers will help the resource family determine if this is the best option and will guide them through the transition process if it’s deemed necessary to change a youth’s placement.

What county do I need to live in to be eligible to foster or fost-adopt with AFS? 

AFS works in the following California counties:

  • Alameda, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Kern, Marin, Napa, Placer, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma, and Yolo

 

What do I need to do to become a Resource or Fost-Adopt Parent? 

Foster and fost-adopt parents are selected for their ability to provide a mature, healthy, nurturing, and therapeutic environment. The process consists of completing the following:

    • Application packet
    • Fingerprints and child abuse clearances
    • Criminal background check
    • Out-of-state criminal record statement for ALL applicants
    • Out-of-state criminal clearance for foster parent applicants who have lived in another state during the past five years
    • Resource parent training for 18-22 hours
    • Completion of all California state licensing requirements
    • Current physical exam and TB test
    • DMV printouts, including DMV record and valid CA driver’s license, and auto insurance verification
    • Proof of age (21+ years old) and Social Security Card
    • Insured passenger vehicle
    • Letters of recommendation
    • Family evaluation (consisting of multiple interviews)
    • First Aid and CPR training
    • Home safety checklist completed with social worker
    • Annual CA re-certification training (12 hours)

How do I/we become a resource or fost-adopt family? 

  • If you live in one of the approved counties and meet the initial qualifications listed on our Foster a Child page, the next step is to reach out to AFS. AFS staff will setup an assessment call with you and determine if moving forward to the application process is appropriate. AFS staff supports you through every step of the fostering process.

 

CONTACT US 

(800)300-1022

rfarecruitment@afs4kids.org

Inquire online by clicking here

Si necesita hablar con alguien en español (800)300-1022

  • During the assessment, staff will explain the approval process and requirements in detail, provide documentation to comply with state regulations and discuss the S.A.F.E. Home Study (Note: the S.A.F.E Home Study is not completed at the orientation, and typically requires at least two home visits for completion).
  • Much of the initial assessment and training is completed via phone and online.