Requirements to Becoming a Foster Parent
What does it mean to be a licensed foster home?
A licensed foster home means a home is state approved to provide care for children and meets standards of safety set by law and regulation. These standards reduce predictable risks to the health, safety and well-being of children in out-of-home care.
The goal of foster care is to provide a safe, stable, nurturing environment until the child is able to return home or until a permanent placement is found for the child.
Licensed foster parents receive a monthly stipend as a reimbursement to help with the cost of caring for a child in care. This rate is established by the state legislature, and is based on how many nights a child is in your home, the age of the child and your geographic location.
What are the requirements for foster homes?
Licensing requirements are defined in Alaska statute and regulation. Foster homes must be in compliance with licensing standards, which address home environment, safety, and criminal, Child Protective and Licensing background checks. There are some specific requirements you have to be able to meet.
Age: Must be at least 21.
Health: The foster family must be physically and emotionally capable of caring for children, and demonstrate a lifestyle and personal habits free of criminal activity, and abuse or misuse of alcohol or drugs.
Financial: The foster family must have adequate resources to support the household independent of the monthly foster care reimbursements.
Character references: The potential foster parent(s) must provide the agency with the names of three persons who may be contacted for references. The agency will seek statements from these individuals attesting to the applicant's moral character, mature judgment, ability to manage financial resources, and capacity for developing a meaningful relationship with children.
Ability and Motivation: The agency will explore each applicant's ability and motivation to be a foster parent. Applicants must have willingness to cooperate with the agency in providing services needed and carrying out the foster care plan and case plan.
Safety standards: Have a home that can meet basic fire, safety and sanitary standards.
Space: Have enough room (and beds) in your home for a foster child to sleep, have privacy, and keep his or her belongings.
The application and the licensing process
As part of becoming a licensed foster parent, applicants must complete all of the required agency forms and undergo a thorough background check assessment, as well as a home inspection.
A Community Care Licensing Specialist will conduct an on-sight inspection of your home/premises to determine compliance with all environmental health, and safety requirements. At the time of the inspection, foster care regulations will be reviewed with the applicants.
To apply to become a foster parent:
- Attend required orientation. See the orientation schedule at: http://www.acrf.org/training.php?tn=6 . If your community does not have an onsite orientation, you may participate in a telephonic orientation or complete a web-based orientation.
- Call the local OCS field office to get an application packet, or download the application and forms located in the “Foster Care Forms, Brochures and Handbooks” link. Fill out the forms included in the packet;
- Sign and return the completed application. The application also asks for three personal references (one can be a relative) and for permission to complete a background check on all household members age 16 years and older.
- Get fingerprinted;
- A criminal, child protective services/licensing background check will be run on household members age 16 and older;
- Participate in home visits. A licensing worker will visit your home to determine that environmental health and safety standards are met; and
- Obtain required military permission if you reside on a military installation.
When a criminal history record of the foster parent or any other person age 16 and older who lives in the home reveals a charge or conviction of a barrier crime, the foster parent may request a variance by completing a background variance request application and providing requested supporting documentation.
Meeting the Criminal Justice Clearance Requirement in Alaska for Foster Care
Questions and Answers
Why is Fingerprinting Necessary?
- To ensure the safety of children in out-of-home care.
- To reduce predictable risk to the child.
- To verify the identity of the person being checked with information received.
Who Needs to be Fingerprinted?
- Unlicensed relative caregivers,
- Foster Homes and Foster Group Homes (All household members age 16 and older),
- Employees or volunteers who work with children and youth,
- Child Placement Agencies
- Prospective adoptive parents, and
- Prospective guardianship parents.
Where Can Fingerprinting be Done?
- OCS offices have LiveScan equipment to fingerprint foster families for electronic submittal of fingerprints.
- Village Public Safety Officers (VPSOs) or village police departments and other local law enforcement agencies.
What is the Cost?
- OCS will pay the cost of fingerprinting and the processing fee for applicants for foster home licensees and household members age 16 and older.
Who Receives the Results?
- Results are received by the agency that submitted them and are confidential.
What if a Barrier Crime is Found?
- If a household member, age 16 or older, is found to have an existing barrier crime, a variance/reconsideration may be requested.
- The Department will review the request and make a recommendation to the Statewide Variance Committee prior to a final decision being made by the Commissioner of the Department of Health & Social Services.
- The Commissioner will either approve or deny the variance request.
Where can I get more information?
What kind of training is involved in becoming a foster parent?
The Alaska Center for Resource Families (ACRF) offers a variety of educational opportunities including onsite and distance delivery programs, for families who are wishing to become foster parents. In addition ACRF also provides and on-going training to resource families to meet the State of Alaska requirement for foster parents. Currently, a one parent home must complete 10 hours of training annually. A two parent home must complete 15 hours annually. This can be split between each parent; however, each parent must receive a minimum of 5 hours.
Training helps the foster family to meet the needs of children, receive information on techniques with challenging behaviors, to understand the effects of abuse and neglect on children in care, and to understand the expectations of the agency.
Foster parents need preparation and training to be effective in their role. Objectives of the training for foster parents are:
- Learning what to expect and what services are available.
- Looking at one's own strengths and needs.
- Developing skills to understand a child's behavior.
- Learning about stages of child development.
- Understanding the importance of teamwork, such as working with the caseworker, the child's parents, schools, etc.
There are different methods of obtaining orientation and training, including self-study and web based training, all at no charge to you. Contact the Training Center at 1-800-478-7307 or online at www.acrf.org.
In addition, training can be obtained through other community services; however, an alternative training record form and documentation will need to be provided to the training center to receive credit.
Am I ready to become a foster parent?
Foster care affects your whole family. Talk over the decision with your family members.
- Are both spouses interested in caring for the children?
- How do the children feel about sharing space, toys, parents, and attention?
Foster care makes demands on all family members, including pets. Make sure it is a family decision.
"We received as much as we gave."
~ Bill, foster parent
For more information, contact the Alaska Center for Resource Families or your nearest Office of Children's Services. If you are a member of a Tribal or Native Corporation, contact the social services department. Some corporations have their own foster care programs and would welcome your interest in becoming a tribal foster home.
Alaska Center for Resource Families
815 Second Avenue Suite 202
Fairbanks, AK 99701
OCS STATE OFFICE:
Office of Children’s Services
130 Seward St, Rm 406
P.O. Box 110630 Juneau, AK 99811-0630
Phone: (907) 465-3191
Fax: (907) 465-3397