Becoming a foster parent is a rewarding life choice. If you live in the great state of Georgia, there are many opportunities available to you. Whether you are brand new to the idea of becoming a foster parent or if you have already made the decision to bring a child or children into your home, it’s wise to learn as much as you can about the process. What are the requirements for fostering? Who are the children in the state’s custody? What type of funding is available to help you if you decide to foster a child? Are children in foster care available for adoption? The answers to these and many more questions can be found below.
Foster Parent Georgia: Requirements
What are the requirements to become a foster parent in Georgia? Do you need to be of a certain background, marital status, or income level? Not necessarily! The biggest requirement to consider when contemplating foster care is the desire to support and care for a child or children. You must be able to demonstrate a level of maturity and stability to ensure that your home will be a comfortable and beneficial environment. Helping a child to feel protected and nurtured while working to achieve his or her developmental goals is also important.
Because the ultimate goal of foster care is reunification of the biological family, you must be willing to help maintain healthy communication between the child and his or her parents. This is typically done through Partnership Parenting, which is a program developed to help biological families to parent their children, even when they aren’t living in the home. Not only does this help reduce the trauma of placement for children, but it also keeps the child/parent bonds intact. This gives the biological parent(s) a chance to show responsibility and progress to achieve permanency faster. Caregivers in the Partnership Parenting program may also be related to the child(ren) in the program. Through the Relative Partnership Parenting program, children may be housed with those they are related to through blood, marriage, or adoption. The requirements and benefits are the same for relatives and nonrelatives.
According to Foster Georgia, additional requirements to become a certified Resource Parent include:
Being at least 21 years of age
Attending a 2-hour orientation either online or at a local county office
Successfully completing preservice IMPACT family-centered training (This may include but is not limited to learning more about the adoption/fostering process and its emotional/behavioral/cognitive implications, sexuality and sexual orientation, how trauma affects children in the foster care system, communication and partnership, and identity and cultural issues).
A medical exam
A fingerprint check
Passing a child welfare and criminal background check
If you or another adult member of your household has resided in GA for less than 5 years, you will need to be screened in each of your previous states’ Child Neglect & Abuse registries
Proof of current residence and financial stability
A checklist of reasons you are interested in fostering
Completion of a home evaluation
In addition to these initial requirements, you must be willing to complete at least 15 hours of Continued Parent Development training per year. This training will be specific to the types of children living in your home.
When fostering or adopting through a private agency rather than through the state, you may be subject to additional requirements and fees.
Foster Parent Georgia: Children in Need of a Home
According to the State of Georgia’s Division of Family & Children Services, there were approximately 13,718 children in state custody as of May 2019. These children may be placed with foster families or with adoptive families. They may also be placed in group homes, hospitals, or youth detention facilities if needed. The children represented include all races and ethnicities with a majority being white or African American. The largest percentage of children in state custody are aged 0-5, but there are also many older children and teenagers in the system as well. While some children have been placed into care voluntarily by their parents, the vast majority have been removed from their biological families due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment. It is always the goal of the foster care system to reunite children with their biological families, however, that isn’t always a viable option. When parents have had their rights terminated by the state of Georgia, the child becomes available for adoption.
Many children in the system are considered to have “special needs.” Upon hearing this phrase, you may immediately think of mental or physical disabilities. While the term certainly covers children who have been diagnosed with a disability by a doctor or psychologist, special needs pertaining to adoption can have other meanings as well. Other children who fall into the special needs category include those who are a part of a sibling group (two or more, placed in the same home) and those who have been in the care of a public or private agency (and not in the custody of their legal/biological parents) for at least 2 years, consecutively.
Foster Parent Georgia: What Type of Assistance Is Available?
Bringing a child into your home is a big decision that comes with many major life changes–both financial and emotional. It is comforting to know that you will never be alone during the process. There are resources available to help you as you adjust to building your family. You will have 24/7 access to professional support from the DFCS for any questions or emergencies that may arise.
A per diem rate is paid to foster families to assist in the cost of housing, food, clothing, and other needs that the children in your care may have. This is a basic fixed-rate and is dependent upon the age of the child. If the child has additional needs, additional funding may be dispersed. Because this money is meant to be spent on the children in your care, a monthly invoice is required. This invoice should document the costs associated with providing for each foster child in your home. Fostering should never be viewed as a money-making opportunity or a “side hustle,” but funding is available to help foster parents provide for children a little easier.
A foster parent manual is given to each foster family. This manual covers the basics of foster care as well as addressing the “dos” and “don’ts” associated with fostering. This is a very helpful resource for all of the questions that may arise. It even contains information about topics such as overnight visits, hair cuts, and cultural enrichment. There is also a Foster Parent Bill of Rights that should be reviewed to ensure that you are being treated fairly and receiving the assistance and resources that are afforded to you.
Many older children and teens are in need of adoption. The Georgia DFCS realizes that teens in foster care can use some assistance in the transition to adulthood. The Independent Living Program has been set up to help meet those needs. This program offers youth who currently or previously resided in the foster care system with the education and life skills necessary to become successful and self-sufficient adults. When fostering or adopting a teenager/young adult, you will be able to help guide her through the program. The ILP teaches life skills, provides financial assistance, and offers educational and social support as needed. They also offer vocational/employment preparation and health education. They have a housing/transitional living program available to those who are aging out of the foster care system. All of these resources are free of charge but do require that a young adult starts saving for their future.
Because foster parents are an integral part of the child welfare system in the United States, there is always a need for more qualified applicants. One of the main recruitment tools is the referral of existing foster parents. By sharing your experience, you may help others in their desire to change lives for the better. By handing out brochures, sharing information in your church or community, and assisting the DFCS, you may be able to earn incentives. Contact your Resource Development Team to find out more about what incentives are available when you help to successfully recruit other caregivers.
Foster Parent Georgia: Can I Adopt through Foster Care?
Yes! Many families are built through foster care adoption in Georgia. When biological parents are unable to regain custody of their children, the children become available for adoption. When adopting a child, you make a commitment to become his forever family, and you become his legal guardian. Children may also be legally adopted by their relatives. There are situations in which a child isn’t legally free for adoption, but adoptive parents pursue adoption anyways. There are legal risks in this type of adoption, so make sure to speak with a legal representative if this is a path you decide to follow.
According to Foster Georgia, Resource Parents are a hybrid of a foster and adoptive parent. Resource Parents serve as a temporary foster care family but are willing to adopt the child in their care if and when they should become available for adoption. These parents must follow two permanency plans. First, they must follow through with the Partnership Parenting program which serves to reunify the biological family. They must concurrently build a permanency placement plan as adoptive parents should the child not be able to return to her birth parents’ custody.
Adoption.com offers a photolisting of children currently available for adoption in the state of Georgia. There are several pages of children to “meet.” Here, you can find photos and short bios of boys and girls who are looking for their forever families. Their smiling faces are sure to leave you smiling as well. Perhaps the next member of your family is waiting on these pages.
Foster Parent Georgia: Where Can I Obtain More Information?
Informational webinars are held on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 10:00 am-12:00 pm. To register for these webinars or for general inquiries, fill out an inquiry form on their website. A representative will contact you within three days with a registration link. You may also sign up for the Foster Georgia email newsletter by clicking here.
It’s important to have a strong support group when deciding to foster or adopt. You can find these in your state or local community. Check with the agency you plan to work with to see if they offer group meetings. There are plenty of online groups that may provide you with support as well. Adoption.com offers several forums to help you connect with others who can relate to your situation. In these forums, you can communicate with others who are navigating the foster care system. You can ask questions, read about the experiences of others, and find helpful advice.
Foster Parent Georgia: Benefits of Fostering
When you decide to become a foster parent, there will be challenges to overcome and lifestyle changes to anticipate. However, there is also a deeply rewarding feeling that comes with providing a loving home to a child in need. As much as you are helping a child, you may find that they help you as well. The love and laughter a child can bring to your life are immeasurable. Whether you hope to adopt one child from foster care or provide a home to many children on their journey, know that you really can make a difference. By having an open mind and an open heart, displaying kindness, and being a positive influence on young people, you may impact their lives in a very important way.
If your goal is to adopt a child, you may be pleased to find that adopting through foster care is often a much more cost-effective option than adopting through a private agency. You don’t have to pay expensive agency fees, you may receive tax credits, and the state typically covers the court costs.
Do your own research and check out the Guide to Becoming a Foster Parent to decide if fostering is the right choice for your family. If you are married or in a relationship, speak openly and honestly with your spouse/partner and make sure that you are both on the same page. Consider how fostering will impact your life financially, emotionally, and socially.
Children are in foster care through no fault of their own. It can be incredibly difficult being displaced and having a feeling of uncertainty about the future. By fostering or adopting a child, you have the opportunity to change lives for the better: both that of the child(ren) and your own!