So you’ve decided that fostering in Texas is what you want to do. The decision to become a foster parent and to open your home and heart to a child can be an exciting one and with so many children in foster care—a life-changing one, too. Adoption.com’s article, “Foster Care Adoption” provides a snapshot of what fostering means to both parents and children touched by the foster care system.
As of January 2019, there were tens of thousands of children in foster care in Texas and thousands of children waiting for adoptive families. Your choice to pursue fostering is not one to be made lightly. You will find that there are many factors to consider and much to learn about fostering in Texas before you pick up your pen and begin checking off the questions and reports to be completed in the piles of paperwork to come.
And while fostering a child is similar between most states, it is still very important to research and understand the differences in the laws, necessary steps, and requirements that may advance or stall your progress. Taking the time to do so before you find yourself in the thick of all-things-fostering will allow you to then focus on what matters most—preparing to provide a safe and loving home to a foster child.
Educating yourself and learning about the resources available to help you to navigate foster care should be a priority. Adoption.com’s “Guide to Becoming a Foster Parent” offers a wealth of information concerning reasons foster parents may have for wanting to provide foster care, qualifications to being a foster parent, financial considerations, education and preparation, applying for foster care, training, completing a home study, waiting for placement, and post-placement transition.
Foster Care in the Great State of Texas
Before you begin your journey into foster care, it’s important to define what foster care and fostering in Texas actually means. According to The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, “When children can’t live safely at home, CPS (Child Protective Services) tries to find relatives and family friends who can provide stability while the children can’t live with their parents. If no one can be found, the court can give temporary legal custody to CPS, who then places the children in foster care. DFPS offers many resources for people who want to become foster parents, or who already have, or who want to foster as a first step towards adoption.”
Typical foster care settings may include family homes, group homes, residential group facilities, and/or other medical or state agency care facilities. It is common for children in the foster care system to change placements multiple times due to a variety of reasons.
Foster care is meant to be a temporary arrangement until a permanent one can be found—sometimes through kinship care, where an extended family member may step in, and other times through foster to adopt situations. Agencies such as the DFPS work with the involved family members and children to quickly find the best placement option available.
Initial Considerations to Fostering in Texas
So where do you begin in your journey to foster or adopt a child in Texas?
Potential foster families must first attend an informational meeting to learn about the requirements of being a foster or adoptive parent in their area. Not only is this your opportunity to hear about fostering in Texas, but it also affords you the chance to ask pertinent questions to determine whether or not you meet the criteria and if this is the path for you.
Requirements to Foster a Child in Texas include:
Prospective parents may be married or single
You must be at least 21 years of age
You must be financially stable
You must conduct yourself as a responsible mature adult,
You will need to complete an application
You will need to share information regarding your lifestyle and background
Relative and non-relative references will be requested
Proof of marriage and/or divorce (if applicable) will be required
You must agree to a home study (to include all household members)
You will be subject to a criminal history background check and an abuse/neglect check (to include all adults household members)
You will need to attend training to learn about issues of abused and neglected children
There are additional basic requirements concerning home safety as well as responsibilities, including agreeing to provide a loving and nurturing environment and upbringing for children that all candidates will need to learn about and agree to before being considered for foster care.
Once you have made that determination, you will work closely with CPS/DFPS staff to ensure you can meet all of the requirements and begin your paperwork and training.
Being Matched with a Child
Once your application and home study have been approved, your caseworker can begin to help you search for an appropriate match. Policies regarding being matched with a child and receiving an adoptive placement vary state-to-state. As a result, the timelines and specific processes agencies use in matching children with families may vary widely.
Managed by the DFPS, the Texas Adoption Resource Exchange website TARE was created specifically to help match children awaiting adoption with adoptive parents. Prospective foster families need to create an account and a family profile to view full profiles, including photos and personal information of waiting for children.
To ensure that you find the right match for your family, you should make sure to stay in constant contact with your caseworker and prepare to be patient while you wait for your match. There is no one-size-fits-all timeline for matches, rather a placement can vary depending on the jurisdiction responsible for the child. You need to ask questions during this time period, especially if you are informed of a potential match. It’s in the best interest of all involved for you to learn as much as you can to make a well-informed decision regarding placement.
Once a match occurs, you will receive additional information about the child or sibling group so that your decision to proceed with meeting them is a well-informed one. Once you have had an opportunity to review all of the available information about the child and are satisfied that the match is a good one for you and the child, the process of introducing your family to the child or sibling group begins.
If your family is not selected as the adoptive placement for a child or sibling group, you might be asked if you’re willing to be considered for other children available for adoption through that agency or to be a backup family for the child should the selected family decide not to proceed with adopting them.
Placement, Parenthood, and Family—Now What?
You’ve been successfully matched and you are now officially a foster family. If you thought the process leading up to fostering in Texas was hard work, get ready for the reality that is raising a child! While the rewards are endless, whether you are fostering an infant, child, or teen you will want to prepare your home and the occupants in it for the adjustment/transition period.
If you haven’t already, sharing your wealth of knowledge from the training and endless internet searches you’ve now completed with close family and friends is a good idea. The more in your circle who can support you and your foster child the better for everyone.
Additionally, you will want to prepare your home to ensure it’s move-in ready and has been modified, if necessary, to accommodate any special needs your foster child may have. Moving into a new home and a new family can be a traumatic experience, try and make your foster child’s environment warm and welcoming by doing your homework in advance to get to know some of his/her likes and dislikes—from favorite colors to favorite toys to having some favorite music and shows on hand.
By now, you should have researched and determined medical service providers who are familiar with foster children and any special circumstances that may come with that territory. Deciding whether or not to keep or change your foster child’s current providers should be considered ahead of time.
You should make sure to work with your caseworker and your foster child’s educational providers—especially if they will be transferring to a new district. Planning will help to make the transition much easier.
Bonding and Attachments
It’s important to make your foster child feel welcome and comfortable. Adoption.com’s article, “10 Activities to Bond with your Foster Children” offers interesting ideas to help strengthen your relationship, while keeping in mind that not all children are the same nor do they respond the same.
As with any child, spending time together no matter what you’re doing is a good first step. Making sure to implement structure and routine will help to foster a sense of familiarity that a foster child can come to depend on in an otherwise uncertain situation.
Reading together, playing games, and eating meals together are all basic ways of ensuring time for you to get to know one another. Encouraging your foster child to share his or her own ideas for interesting activities and pursuing interests will help to build mutual trust and self-esteem.
Don’t expect bonding and attachment to happen overnight—as with any relationship, building a foundation takes time and patience.
There is a myth that families who choose to foster children do so with the expectation of a paycheck for their time and effort. In reality, any money paid to a foster family will go toward the care of the child (and we all know raising children is not cheap), necessities, medical, and general care. Realistically, you should expect to pay for some services such as criminal background checks, fingerprinting, home inspections, CPR training, TB testing, and other medical and pre-foster requirements leading up to your match. There also may be a small charge for fire and health inspections of your home. In many cases, these out-of-pocket expenses are refunded once your foster home is approved.
Typically in Texas, foster children are provided health insurance by the State of Texas Medicaid program.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services provides an overview of 24-hour care residential reimbursement rates here.
Next Steps in Fostering in Texas
Educating yourself about fostering doesn’t and shouldn’t end with placement. Fostering children is a life-changing situation for everyone involved. Make sure to keep in touch with your state resources, including social workers and specialists who may be able to help make the transition easier. Consider reaching out and connecting with other foster families in your area who will be able to relate to your situation and that of your foster child.
You can find many resources, including parent support groups and other articles online at Adoption.com.
Considering adoption? Let us help you on your journey to creating your forever family. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.