Deciding to become a foster parent is a big decision. Understanding the various steps, regulations, and requirements to pursue foster care in Pennsylvania (PA) is critical before you take the first step. Foster care in Pennsylvania 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 PA 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 Pennsylvania, there are separate steps to doing so as your foster care placement proceeds. Understanding the timelines, costs, and steps involved with foster care in PA will help you take the first step.
REQUIREMENTS FOR FOSTER CARE IN PENNSYLVANIA
To bring a child into your home through foster care in PA, you need to meet certain requirements. Loving families, just like yours, are key to the success of the child welfare system. Right now there are approximately 15,000 children in temporary foster care in Pennsylvania. As a foster parent, you will have the unique opportunity to touch the lives of children by opening your heart and home to them.
It takes a special type of person to provide stability to children in crisis when their own home has stopped being the right place for them to live, at least for the time being. But that doesn’t mean they’ve stopped needing what all kids need: security, nurturing, and guidance. Foster parents step in and provide those protections temporarily.
Most importantly, Pennsylvania, as do most states, 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:
- Be at least 21 years of age.
- Pass a medical examination that states the individual is physically able to care for children and is free from communicable disease.
- Pass screening requirements related to child abuse and criminal history clearances.
There are several other factors that are assessed when the agency conducts their home study such as there will need to run a criminal background check on everyone in the home over the age of 14. Although prospective foster parents do not need to be financially well-off, they will need to have the monetary resources to support a child or additional children in their home. The structure of the home will also be assessed for safety and to ensure that the child has enough room in the home. Some other items included in the agency’s home study are as follows:
- Prospective foster family’s ability to provide care, nurturing, and supervision for the child.
- Demonstration of an emotionally stable environment.
- Ties with family, friends, and community.
- Relationship with own children (if applicable).
- Ability to meet the special needs of the child.
The adoption agency will also consider other matters such as parent/child relationships, how the applicant can meet the special needs of children placed in the home, and the number and characteristics of children best suited for the foster family. The foster family residence must meet certain minimal requirements. Regulated requirements can be located in Title 55 Pa. Code Chapter 3700 (Foster Family Care Agency). All of these factors will be discussed with you by the social worker assigned to your family and foster care application.
Adoption from Foster Care in Pennsylvania
Individuals and families who are interested in becoming a foster parent in Pennsylvania must consider what the effect of having foster child or children in your home may mean. Information on adopting a child from foster care in Pennsylvania can be found at this link. As a foster parent, you are diligently working with all of the people in the child’s life to help him or her be reunified with biological family, although, sometimes this is not possible. It is important to understand that you may have an opportunity to adopt your child through foster care in PA, and you may not. Children who are not able to return to their biological families for numerous reasons may be eligible for adoption in Pennsylvania. 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 PA, you can start by looking at photolistings of available children in Pennsylvania. Many of these children are older or are 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 PA. Many parents wonder how long it takes to adopt from foster care in Pennsylvania, and it all depends on your specific child’s situation.
Can I Afford to Bring a Child into My Home through Foster Care in Pennsylvania?
The Pennsylvania Department of Children and Families reports that foster parents are paid $429 a month per child who is up to 5 years of age. Foster parents with children in foster care in PA 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 PA 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 Pennsylvania. 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 Pennsylvania
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 PA. You will have more questions as the journey continues and as 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 PA 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 Pennsylvania 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 in Pennsylvania
Most importantly, remember that your desire to open your heart and home to a child or children in foster care in Pennsylvania 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.