Deciding to become a foster parent is a big decision. Understanding the various steps, regulations, and requirements to pursue foster care in Florida is critical before you take the first step. Foster care in Florida is similar to foster care requirements in other states; however, there are some differences that are important to understand as you move forward.
The Child Welfare Information Gateway defines foster care as “a temporary service provided by States for children who cannot live with their families.” Foster care in Florida starts with understanding if you meet the requirements and if you are emotionally, physically, and financially ready to bring a child into your family on a potentially temporary basis. Although you can adopt through foster care in Florida, there are separate steps to doing so as your foster care placement proceeds. Understanding the timelines, costs, and steps involved with foster care in Florida will help you take the first step.
Requirements to Bring a Child into Your Family through Foster Care in Florida
To bring a child into your home through foster care in Florida, you need to meet certain requirements. Most importantly, Florida requires a prospective foster parent to be committed to loving and nurturing a child in your home and be willing to openly work with everyone involved in the child’s life to ensure he or she is thriving. This includes the biological parents and family members, social worker, teachers, and support people. Foster parents need to be dedicated and supportive of doing everything they can to help the child be reunited with his biological family members. In terms of specific requirements, they are as follows:
- You must be at least 21 years old
- You may be single, married, or divorced.
- Attend a foster care in Florida orientation.
- You must attend all required training sessions. This usually includes 20 to 30 hours of training for foster care in Florida.
- Be financially able to provide for your current financial obligations and potential future family emergencies.
- Pass all criminal and child abuse clearance checks.
- All homes must be inspected and pass a health inspection.
- You must have enough physical space in your home to accommodate a child or children.
- Prospective foster parents must meet with a licensing social worker to complete an in-depth home study to determine eligibility.
Foster Care in Florida
The Florida Department of Children and Families currently works with 18 community-based partner agencies with whom the department contracts. These agencies provide services for children living outside of permanent, loving families by providing intervention, prevention, foster care, and adoption services for these children. These 18 community agencies are responsible for recruiting foster parents and providing the 20 to 30 hours of training necessary to receive your foster care in Florida license.
Adoption from Foster Care in Florida
Individuals and families who are interested in becoming a foster parent in Florida must consider what the effect of having foster child or children in your home may mean. You are diligently working with all of the people in the child’s life to help her be reunified with her biological family. However, sometimes this is not possible. It is important to understand that you may have an opportunity to adopt your child through foster care in Florida, and you may not. Children who are not able to return to their biological families for numerous reasons may be eligible for adoption in Florida. Others may age out of the foster care system without ever realizing their right to a forever family. You can play an important role in the child’s life to ensure this never happens. It is also important to understand some other risks, such as the likelihood and danger of foster children who run away from their foster home. If you are interested in adopting a child from foster care in Florida, you can start by looking at photolistings of available children. Many of these children are older or sibling groups who are in desperate need of a forever family before they age out of the system. It is important to understand that the process is different for adopting a child or children from foster care in Florida. Many parents wonder how long it takes to adopt from foster care in Florida, and it all depends on your specific child’s situation.
Court for Foster Care in Florida
Even if you do not adopt your child from foster care in Florida, you may have to go to court. It is important to educate yourself on what court is like for foster parents. You may not have to attend a court hearing during the child’s placement in your home; however, it is best to be prepared. The reason for going to court is so that the judge can determine what is in the best interest of the child in regards to being reunited with his or her biological parents or extended biological family members or whether parental rights should be terminated. The foster parent’s role is critical in helping the judge make the best decision for the child. Court is an important step in ensuring the child or children you foster in your home are placed in the care of an eventual permanent home that is safe and loving and in the child’s best interests.
Can I Afford to Bring a Child into My Home through Foster Care in Florida?
The Florida Department of Children and Families reports that foster parents are paid $429 a month per child who are up to 5 years of age. Foster parents with children in foster care in Florida ages 6 years old to 12 years old are paid $440 per month per child. Foster parents of children ages 13 years and older are paid $515 a month currently. However, compensation rates are higher for children in foster care in Florida in need of special services to support therapeutic physical, educational, or emotional needs. This should dispel the notion that foster parents are in it for the money, as these stipends are helpful and are supportive of the child’s ability to thrive by having his basic needs met for clothes, food, shelter, extracurricular activities, books, toys, and sports. However, it certainly does not cover all of the expenses of raising a child in your home through foster care. Most of the time when a foster child comes to your home and joins your family, she will come with very little or nothing at all in terms of material possessions. He will need basic necessities that all children need such as clothes, food, toiletries, school supplies, books, and toys. Infants and toddlers will have other needs such as bottles, pacifiers, diapers, baby toys, car seats, and safety gear to baby proof your home.
However, this is not to dissuade you from having a child join your family and home through foster care in Florida. It is important to dispel the assumption that foster parents need to have a lot of money to foster a child or children. Children do not need a lot of money, fancy cars, vacations, or big homes. They just need an extra room, love, nurturing, and the commitment of foster parents to love them unconditionally and support their emotional, spiritual, mental, academic, and physical needs.
Resources for Foster Care in Florida
This article will hopefully provide you with the most important information you need to take the first steps in bringing a child or children into your home through foster care in Florida. You will have more questions as the journey continues, and you take each new step. Adoption.com has wonderful resources as you continue to explore the process. Adoption.com’s Becoming a Foster Parent Guide is an excellent guide for understanding the process of bringing a child into your home through foster care regardless of your state of residence. As specific questions arise, you can find support and advice from parents who are in the process of bringing a child or children into their home through foster care in Florida through the adoption community boards and forums. You can post your questions and connect with other foster parents or prospective foster parents. This is a wonderful resource no matter where you are in the process of becoming a foster parent. Diving into the articles, resource guides, photolistings of children in foster care, and foster care forums will offer the support you need to supplement the training and support you will receive from the state of Florida as you go through their foster care licensing process to bring children into your home and family.
Opening Your Heart and Home to a Child in Foster Care
Most importantly, remember that your desire to open your heart and home to a child or children in foster care in Florida is what is most important as you begin this process. These children will expand your heart as you expand your home. As much as you are doing to support them through this difficult time in their life as they are transitioning into your home, they will be doing just as much for you as you see how much your love can grow.