Choosing to become a foster parent, no matter where you live, is a big decision and one I feel you should be given the most amount of information as possible. Of course, every child and every situation is going to be unique, and I urge you not to compare your situation to the next person’s situation. I believe it is crucial that you understand the steps, regulations, and requirements for Alabama foster care.

As in most of my articles, let me remind you that this article is written from my own research and knowledge and does not constitute as legal advice. As such, I advise you to reach out to your local Alabama foster care agency or Department of Human Resources for more information. For now, let’s cover some of the basics of what Alamaba foster care is, is not, and what to expect if you are interested in becoming a foster parent. 

What is Foster Care: 

Currently, in Alabama, there are approximately 6,000 children in foster care. But what is foster care and why are the children in foster care? Some of these children need care for a short amount of time, while others need a long-term solution for their care and well-being. These children are in foster care for various reasons.

Foster care, in the basic term, is children who have been placed in state-licensed temporary homes for a variety of reasons. Foster care is meant to provide temporary housing for children whose primary goal is returning them to their biological parents (reunification). There are situations and reasons when parent reunification is not possible and an adoption plan can be made for the child. However, it is the primary goal of foster care to be reunified with the child’s biological parents. There are several types of foster care and several different ways you can help. Be sure to check with your local foster care agencies or providers for more detailed information.

Types of Alabama Foster Care: 

Foster Parenting: 

This is traditional foster care, which is the placement of a child in your home that is not related or known to the foster care parents. This is your typical foster care arrangement, wherein the child is placed in a licensed foster care home. Most of the time, this is the type of foster care license you would be obtaining. Foster parents will ensure the child’s safety and meet their physical and emotional needs while placed in their home.

Foster to Adopt: 

As mentioned above, the main goal of foster care is parent reunification. Most children in the foster care system will not become eligible for adoption because they will be reunited with their biological family. However, there are situations when that is not in the best interest of the child, and the child will become eligible for adoption. If a child does become eligible for adoption, priority will be given to a biological family member of the child who may be able to care for him/her instead of the foster family that was caring for the child.

Adopting Through Alabama Foster Care: 

In the state of Alabama, you do not need to be a foster parent in order to adopt from the Alabama foster care system. You would need to apply to adopt and complete all necessary classes, requirements, and the home study in order to adopt from the foster care system.

Foster Care for Teens: 

Alabama has hundreds of teenagers that are in need of forever homes. They need an adult to provide them with a safe, loving, encouraging home. These teenagers range from healthy average teenagers to teenagers of all ethnic backgrounds, to teenagers with various degrees of mental, physical, or emotional problems.

Foster Care for Teen Moms and Their Children: 

There are several teenage moms in the Alabama foster care system. By becoming a foster parent for teenage moms and their children, you are providing a positive future not only for the teenage mom but also for her child. These teenage moms are in need of a positive parent figure, someone to help guide them through the challenges of life but also through the challenges of being a parent. These moms are in need of a positive and supportive role model to help them succeed in school, life, and raising a child. Their children need safety and security more than anything. They need a loving, secure place where they can grow and develop. Their children are also in need of a permanent plan. They need to know they have a parent figure to look up to and a safe, secure place to call home every day.

What is the Process for Becoming Foster Care Licensed?

To begin the foster care process in Alabama, they suggest you make sure your home meets the minimum standards for becoming a foster parent. The housing requirements are as follows:

 - Your home and yard shall be clean and in a safe condition.

- A play space indoor and outdoor should be available for a child to play. This space must be free of any hazardous conditions that could cause injury.

- You must have a working telephone.

- You must have electrical services. Working water; gas, if used for cooking and heating; a waste disposal system (city sewer or septic tank); proper ventilation; proper lighting for children to properly see.

- You must have an adequate number of bedrooms to provide for every member in your family. Children over the age of 6 and opposite sex shall have separate sleeping rooms.

- Bedrooms for foster children shall provide adequate space for the child’s belongings and serve as a sleeping space and also room for them to have personal time/space and to study if necessary.

 - Beds and mattresses shall be available in the necessary size to provide for good sleeping conditions. If an infant is placed in your home, there are additional crib/sleeping guidelines:

          – Slates on the cribs shall be no further apart than 2 3/8 inches.

- Mattresses must be waterproof and fit tightly inside the crib. No more than two finger widths between the mattress and each side of the crib.

- A distance of three feet between cribs, if applicable.

- Cribs and mattresses shall be kept clean and disinfected.

- Clean bathroom facilities that provide privacy must be available for all members of your home and foster children.

- Doors and windows must have screens on them.

- Animals inside the home must have an annual certificate of rabies vaccination.

- Animals that are required to have a cage or aquarium must be kept in said confinement.

- Swimming pools and hot tubs exceeding two feet in depth must be enclosed by a fence of a solid wall. Said fence must be at least four feet in height and have a locked gate.

- All firearms and ammunition must be kept in a locked and approved container, usually kept in different locations.

If your home meets the above criteria, each person interested in becoming a foster parent in Alabama must meet the following criteria:

 - Be at least 19 years or older

- Interested foster parents may be single, which includes never being married or legally divorced. If living together in a relationship, foster parents shall be married in a legal ceremony or by common law, as defined by law. You must have been in this relationship for at least one year. If married applicants are living together—both must be approved as foster parents.

- You must be able to read, write, demonstrate an understanding of basic needs for children, give time and attention to children, provide an opportunity for the children in care, have flexible expectations, and be willing to participate in any planning or services for the children in your care.

- You shall respect the religious beliefs and cultural heritage of the children in your care. You must also not force a foster child to participate in any religious or ethnic event against the child’s will.

- You must have an income or resources to meet the needs of the foster child.

- You must maintain a valid driver’s license and motor vehicle insurance. You may be required to maintain transportation for the foster children.

- You must also complete 30 hours of training. You will also be required to complete and maintain CPR certification. If applicable, you may also be required to complete pediatrics and infant first aid/CPR.

- You must meet the required physical health standards.

- Complete a character review.

- Pass all background checks.

If you feel you and your household would meet all of the above criteria, the next step would be to complete the application process. You can locate your local Department of Human Resources to provide your application to or a local agency that provides foster care. You then will be required to provide the following:

 - A financial statement

- A physical exam

- Two background checks

- Complete the GPS training (30 hours)

- Completed home study

Q & A 

While exploring Alabama foster care, I am sure there are a few questions that everyone is asking. Here are a few basic questions I think people ask the most.

Q: Can I choose the age range and gender of a child who would be entering our home? 

A: Yes. Only you and your family are going to know what will best fit your families. Talk with your social worker about what you are willing to foster.

Q: Are we allowed to have pets? 

A: Yes. I touched on that question a little bit, above. Animals that require a cage must be kept in their cage. You must also provide a certificate of rabies vaccination for all animals that require it.

Q: Do I have to pay for childcare? 

A: No. All children in foster care receive a subsidy through Child Care Management Agencies that pays for the childcare for children under the age of 5.

Q: Do I have to pay for health care? 

A. No. Again, all children who are in foster care receive Medicaid through the state of Alabama. You will not need to pay for health, vision, dental, or prescription costs.

Alabama Foster Care Agencies and Resources:

Interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent in Alabama, make sure to check out some of the below agencies and resources for more information.

Conclusion. 

The above information and requirements can seem overwhelming, but keep in mind, anyone can be a foster parent. You do not have to have a certain education or work experience, you don’t even have to have “special” powers. But you do have to have an open heart and be willing to open your home to provide a loving, secure, and safe home for children who may never have had a stable person or home in their entire life. You don’t have to be married, but you can be married. You can be any age, as long as you are over the age of 19 and are in good physical and mental health. You can have children in your home already. You don’t have to have children in your home. You can work outside the home or you can stay home with the children. As long as you are willing to open your heart, mind, and home to the challenges and blessings being a foster parent can bring.

As I mentioned earlier, this is a brief overview of the Alabama foster care system. This is a lot of information to take in. Let it set in and process what it might entail to be a foster care parent in the state of Alabama and when you are ready, contact a local agency (a few are listed above) and get started with the process. Remember, this is a process just like everything else in life. There will probably be hard days and there will be days when you can see you are making a difference in a child’s life. Cling to those days and remember you are doing this for the greater good and changing the life of a child. There is no greater feeling.

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