You’ve done your research, you’ve spoken to other foster parents, and you have made the decision to step into this exciting and challenging world of becoming a foster parent. So what’s next?
In the State of Illinois, you must be licensed to provide a foster home for children unrelated to you. The process to become licensed can be long and seem somewhat intrusive, but is designed to help us learn about you so that we can find the best “fit” for both you and any potential children placed in your home. It’s also designed to help you understand more thoroughly the journey on which you are about to embark.
The Licensing Process
The first step in the process is to contact us. We will send you some introductory information and questionnaires to help us get to know each other.
After you’ve contacted the agency, reviewed the informational materials, completed the questionnaires and returned them, a licensing specialist will review your materials and contact you to schedule a time to meet in your home.
INITIAL HOME VISIT
The licensing specialist will do a walk-through of your home and point out any structural things that might need to be addressed to bring your home into compliance with Illinois DCFS Rule 402, Licensing Standards for Foster Family Homes. This is also a time for you to ask any questions whatsoever about fostering.
If you have pets, the licensing specialist will need to meet with them as well to ensure that they are friendly and do not pose any safety risks to foster children. You will also be required to provide current certification of rabies vaccines for all pets (dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, etc.) before your license can be issued.
If you still wish to proceed with licensure after the initial home visit, the licensing specialist will register you for pre-service classes required by the Department of Children and Family Services. These classes are referred to as Foster PRIDE and generally meet for 27 hours – usually 3 hours, once a week for 9 weeks. However, there are some other options – classes that meet twice a week (finished in 4 weeks) and some classes that meet on the weekends which cuts down the total number of weeks. There are also supplemental trainings that you will need to complete individually on-line.
At the initial home visit, the licensing specialist will provide you with a packet of paperwork which must be completed and returned to the agency. This includes more informational material as well as:
- DCFS Foster Home Application (requires information on all members of household and references from three people unrelated to you.)
- Background checks (for all members of household age 13 and older)
- Health Physicals (for each member of household, including pets)
If you have any questions at all while gathering the information for your application be sure to contact your licensing specialist. Most concerns can be addressed easily. Return all of the above to your licensing specialist as soon as you have completed it. Your licensing specialist will then submit the application to DCFS to get the ball rolling. Your application is not considered “active” until everything is submitted.
Once your application has been submitted to DCFS by your licensing specialist, DCFS will begin the process of obtaining your background clearances. While all of this is happening, you will be:
- attending PRIDE classes; obtaining shot records for your pets;
- making adjustments to your home if needed (child-proofing your home, setting up bedroom space for foster children getting beds, etc. (We will need diagrams and dimensions of foster children’s bedrooms as well);
- talking to other foster parents who are already licensed as well as those just starting the journey, like you.
Your licensing specialist will be writing the narrative home study – which means he/she will be:
- checking your references;
- reviewing your medical records;
- gathering your training records;
- collecting signed agreements from you regarding confidentiality, discipline, driving records and insurance, proof of income, marriage/divorce, your motivation for fostering, experience with children, and monitoring your progress with necessary changes to your home;
The biographical information you provided in your initial questionnaire, will be used to help your licensing specialist combine all of the above to help us ensure proper matching of children to be placed in your home.
MORE HOME VISITS
The number of additional visits to your home between the first visit and the recommendation to issue a license will depend on several things:
- What adjustments are necessary to the home to bring it into compliance;
- Clarification needed to finish the written, narrative home study;
- Whether or not you have information on your background check that needs to be evaluated. (Relax – the college prank you pulled that got you arrested, may show up on your background check, but most likely will not bar you from licensure.)
- To discuss what “types” of children will be most successful for both you and the children.
Once DCFS notifies us that your background check has cleared your licensing specialist will:
- Meet with you in your home for a final inspection of you home and to review specific rules and regulations that apply to fostering.
- Determine the number, ages, and gender of children to be placed in your home.
- Answer any additional questions you might have.
- Finalize the entire study and make a recommendation to the Department of Children and Family Services to issue your license.
After the recommendation to issue your license is made to DCFS, you will receive (in the mail from DCFS) your license. The license will specify your name, address, supervising agency (Caritas), the number and age range of children for which you licensed to care.
This entire process generally takes 4-6 months, but that time frame may vary differently depending on each family.
Congratulations! You are now a licensed foster home! Keep in mind however, we cannot predict how soon your first foster child will be placed in your home. Some things to consider:
- The broader your age-range, the quicker you will likely get your first placement. Most foster parents are willing to take children from birth to age three. The number of children we get under the age of three is limited, so if you are set on the age limit, you will likely wait longer to get your first placement.
- The number of children you are willing to take will also affect the speed with which you receive your first placement. In other words, foster children often come into care with siblings, and we do everything within our power to keep siblings together. We only consider separating siblings when we have exhausted all possibilities for keeping them together.
- We really need homes for teens. While teens often seem scary, and people are afraid to take on a teen, there are many foster parents who can tell you success stories of fostering teens. So, don’t count them out. You don’t have to take teens initially, but leaving your mind open to the possibility can be rewarding for you as a foster parent while also make a huge difference in the life of a teen in care.
- We also really need homes for kids with special needs (medical, developmental or behavioral). Keep in mind, while these kids can be a handful, they desperately need loving adults in their lives to help get them on target. Additional resources and reimbursement rates are provided for children considered “specialized.”
If you have additional questions, please be sure to reach out to either your licensing specialist or me, Mary Savage, Director of Licensing. I can be reached at 618-258-8778 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. We want your experience with our agency to be pleasant and fulfilling and look forward to working with you as Caritas Foster Parents.