I am going to go ahead and get it out in the open that foster care is a daunting process. There was a lot that felt familiar to the adoption process which made the segue from domestic infant adoption into foster cares a bit easier on me and my husband. Then there was the rest of it, which felt insanely overwhelming to the point that I started to hate it. Luckily I have a super patient husband who was understanding, positive, and persistent, which helped me get over what was holding me back from embracing the foster care process.
My husband and I live in Ohio, so all information about the foster care process in this article pertains to Portage County, Ohio. Every county in every state has its own foster care program and certain requirements for licensure. I think that most things will be similar, but be sure to talk to someone in your county or state if you have questions about becoming foster parents.
Before we even got to the paperwork, interviews, and home visits, we had to attend 12 “pre-service” classes. These were twice a week for three hours each class. We started the classes the second week of January and finished the beginning of March. Topics ranged from, “What is Foster Care?” to, “Sexual and Physical Trauma” and “Mental Health Diagnoses.” I’m going to be honest and tell you that sometimes the classes felt long and boring. Sitting for three hours listening to a PowerPoint presentation can be dull, but we tried to keep in mind that this information was very important and would eventually help us be the best foster parents possible.
After our classes were finished, we started in on the paperwork. There is so. Much. Paperwork. More than what we dealt with during the adoption process. Along with the paperwork is a thick, one-and-a-half-inch binder of foster care policies and procedures. Yes, we were asked to read the entire thing which, yes, we did. Trying to absorb so much information was overwhelming, but luckily they gave us our own copies of everything so we can go back and re-read if needed.
In Ohio, the interviews take place over the course of four to five home visits. Each visit can take a couple of hours. Depending on your caseworker and their caseload, this can take many months. We’ve had three visits over the course of three months so far, with at least two to go. Our caseworker told us it would take about six months to complete all our interviews as well as our paperwork. This isn’t including the two months we spent in our pre-services training classes. Even though we are highly motivated to complete the process, we can’t speed up our caseworker and his ability to schedule our home visits. However, we are still trying to get all our paperwork, fingerprinting, background checks, etc. done as quickly as possible. CPR and First Aid certification is required as well, and this was a class that our county didn’t provide directly. They gave us information to a few individuals who offered private classes. This class was an out-of-pocket expense and was four hours long.
When it comes down to it, the foster care process is anything but quick. In Ohio, I’d say it takes, at minimum, six months, with an average time closer to 12 months, for parents to become fully licensed as foster care providers. It’s intense, but worth it!