Foster care is a temporary solution for children who have been removed from their biological parents and/or caregivers due to abuse and/or neglect. In Texas, when a report concerning abuse and/or neglect of a child is filed, a court will hold an emergency hearing to determine the state of the parent/child relationship. If the court finds it to be in the best interest of the child to move the child out of their current home, the child will enter into emergency foster care.
Two weeks later another hearing will be held to determine if the child may return to their parents or if the child should remain in state care. If the child remains in state care, they remain in the foster care system and a more permanent foster home is located. Typically, a court will revisit their decision every six months to appraise if the child’s home is suitable for them to return. If their home situation remains the same, then the child will return to their foster parents.
Court hearings will continue to occur every six months, for a maximum of 30 months. If after 30 months the child is still in state care, the parents’ rights will be terminated and the child will be eligible for adoption. It should be noted that family reunification is always the goal of foster care and parental rights are only terminated when the courts find termination to be in the absolute best interest of the child.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are 438,000 children in the U.S. foster care system on any given day. Of these, 118,000 have had their parental rights terminated and are waiting to be adopted. People interested in becoming foster parents in Texas should be prepared to provide daily care for the foster child in their homes and to advocate for them in their schools and communities. Being a foster parent means navigating several relationships between caseworkers, the child’s birth family, school officials, and other professionals whose goal is to help the foster child adjust. Prospective foster parents should be flexible, have a strong network of support in place, be open-minded, and have an open heart.
As of January 2019, there were 29,927 children in foster care in Texas. Of these, 3,378 children have had their parental rights terminated and are waiting for adoptive families. Children range in age from infancy to 18 years old and come from all ethnic and racial backgrounds. Sibling groups are common and every effort is made to place siblings together. When a joint placement is not possible, siblings will need to have regular contact with one another during their time in foster care. Children in foster care may have disabilities or special needs. The special needs may be due to a physical, psychological, or emotional diagnosis. The term “special needs” often applies to both children with medical diagnoses and children who are 6 years or older, part of a sibling group, or a child who is at least 2 years old and is a member of a race or ethnicity whose racial or ethnic group typically takes longer to exit foster care. In Texas, there are a disproportionate number of African-American children in the foster care system, so there is a particular need for foster and foster-to-adopt families for these children.
If you are interested in becoming a foster parent in Texas, you must be at least 21 years old and be able to provide a stable home environment and be financially sound. Prospective foster parents may be single, widowed, or divorced. If you are married or divorced, you must be able to show proof of your status in your home study (via either a marriage or divorce certificate). You do not have to own your own home but adequate sleeping space for the prospective foster child is required. No more than six children are allowed in the home, including children currently residing with your family or children for whom you provide in-home daycare.
The first step to becoming a foster parent in Texas is to attend a free informational meeting. A list of current meetings throughout Texas can be found on the Texas Adoption Resource Exchange website. Simply select from one of the 11 counties on the map to view current offerings. All meetings are free to attend and no reservation is needed.
The purpose of the meeting is to learn about the process of foster care in Texas and the types of children in need of temporary homes. During the meeting, you will gain a better understanding of what foster care is and determine if foster care is right for you. If after the meeting, you decide foster care is not the right path for your family, that is okay. There are still ways to help children in state care in Texas. Visit the Texas Adoption Resource Exchange to learn more about opportunities in your area.
Many families are interested in both fostering and fostering to adopt. In Texas, it is possible to obtain dual certification for parents interested in fostering to adopt. Dual certification fast tracks the placement process and reduces the number of times the foster child has to move to different placements (foster families). Fostering to adopt also allows for a relationship between the prospective adoptive parents and the foster child to build and grow.
Nearly half of all adoptions in the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services are through foster-to-adopt placements. Families interested in fostering to adopt should know there are two ways to go about the process. The first is to work directly with DFPS and the second is to work with a private adoption agency that contracts with DFPS. Thanks to the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children it is possible to adopt across state lines. Interested families can visit the photo listings page or the Texas Adoption Resource Exchange to view available waiting children in Texas.
After attending an informational meeting, the next step to becoming a foster parent in Texas is to attend pre-service training. Pre-service training is required for all prospective foster and foster-to-adopt parents working with Texas Child Protective Services. In Texas, CPS uses Parent Resource Information Development Education, or PRIDE. PRIDE is a 35-hour training program designed to educate prospective foster and foster-to-adopt parents on how to care for children who are in the foster program. Children in foster care have unique needs, and prospective placements need to understand this. PRIDE covers topics like attachment disorders, behavior intervention, how to discipline a child who has experienced abuse and/or neglect, the effects of abuse and neglect on a child, how to help a child who is experiencing grief and loss, and how fostering and fostering to adopt will affect the foster family. Additionally, families will learn what role they will play in working with the foster care system, their social worker, and how to forge relationships with their foster child’s family.
Once PRIDE training is concluded families will be expected to complete training in communicable disease, water safety (if your home has a pool or body of water on the property), and psychotropic medication (if the family will be administering psychotropic drugs to the foster child). CPR and First Aid training and certification are also necessary.
Once prospective foster parents complete their initial training, they will need to complete annual training each year their foster certification remains active. State minimum standards require current certified foster homes to complete a minimum of between 20 hours of training per family or 30 hours of training per foster parent (if in a single-parent home).
Following the completion and certification of pre-service training, you will need to complete a home study. A home study is conducted by a state-licensed social worker and in the instance of fostering is often a caseworker at DFPS. The purpose of a home study is to assess the type of home environment you would provide for a child and to determine what type of child would be best for your family and vice versa.
During the home study process, you will compile a list of documents. The documents are designed to provide a general background scope for you and your family. Included are things like letters from employers, tax records, and financial statements (to assess financial standing), medical reports and negative tuberculosis tests, reference letters from both relatives and non-relatives, and birth, marriage, and/or divorce certificates. A complete background check and criminal check (for felonies) must be completed at both the local, state, and/or federal levels. An abuse/neglect check must be completed for all people in your house over the age of 14. Fire and safety inspections of your home must be completed and all pets in the home must be up to date on their vaccinations.
Upon completing the compilation of documents and background investigations/clearances, a social worker will come to your home to meet with you. While there, the social worker will investigate your home to check if you have adequate space for a foster child. Next, you will sit down to discuss your family’s interests and lifestyle, what experiences you have with childcare, how you believe becoming a foster family will affect your lives, the type of child you hope to foster, and the types of the child(ren) you are open to fostering. The social worker will then take all of these and complete a home study report.
Meeting the Child
Upon home study approval, you are eligible to be matched with a child. When a child comes up in the state system who meets the age and special needs you indicated you are open to fostering, the social worker will call and present the child’s file to you. If you agree that the child is a good match then the match will be submitted to a committee for a decision. The committee will evaluate the match then issue approval. Upon approval, the social worker will bring the child to your home so you may meet them. The first meeting with your new foster child can be a bit difficult to navigate. Remember to do everything you can to make the child feel welcome and safe in your home. The first few days you may find that your foster child prefers to spend time on their own. Your foster child has been through a lot, and they are processing levels of grief and loss that most other kids their age never face. Be prepared to give them time, lots of support, and even more love.
Upon becoming a foster parent in Texas you will receive support from both your local caseworker and the state. Financially, DFPS reimburses foster parents for most of the costs related to raising a child. Monies distributed by DFPS are designed to cover food, clothing, and education for the foster child. In Texas, children placed in foster care are assigned a level of care by DFPS. Lower levels of care are designed for children without many specialized needs, higher levels of care are designed for those children with (sometimes) multiple special needs.
According to DFPS, foster families can expect to receive around $27.07 daily (or about $823 a month) for a child with a Basic Level of Care, $47.37 daily (or about $1,440 a month) for a child with a Moderate Level of Care, and $57.86 daily (or about $1,759 a month) for a child with a Specialized Level of Care. Level of Care is calculated daily so foster families will be reimbursed for the number of days the foster child is in their care. Distributions are made twice a month.
With regards to insurance, all medical and dental expenses are covered by Medicaid and each child will have their own Medicaid card. When the child comes of age, Texas offers free college tuition to foster care children.
Additionally, families can expect to work with counselors, social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists to support their children. Texas case managers are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week if you need help. Families are also encouraged to attend training opportunities throughout the year as such training offers a chance to connect with fellow foster families, which can be a wonderful source of support and friendship.
Are you ready to pursue adoption? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to connect with compassionate, nonjudgmental adoption specialists who can help you get started on the journey of a lifetime.