The second-largest state in the country is the home of the hamburger, French fries, and the Alamo. With its ranches, sports teams, and wildlife, it is also a great place to raise a family.
If you have ever wondered how to become a foster parent in Texas, now is the perfect time to start. With a little paperwork and a lot of love, you can provide a home to a child who is in desperate need of a family.
Who Are the Children in Foster Care?
As of 2016, there were over 28,700 children in the foster care system in Texas. In 2017, 3,600 of these were already available for adoption.
The children in the Texas foster care system range in age from infancy to 18 years old. Nearly 60% of them are over age 6. Some may have special medical, physical, or emotional needs. They also belong to many different ethnicities and races, and many are a part of a sibling group that needs to be placed together. There is a great need for parents willing to foster sibling groups of three or more.
The children in foster care who are not already available for adoption may become reunited with their birth parents. Your goal in these cases is to provide a stable, nurturing environment while your child’s life is changing.
If your child is not reunited with his birth parents, he can become free for adoption, and as the foster parent, you will be given a high priority. In fact, 59% of all U.S. adoptions are from the child welfare system.
If your interest is in adoption through foster care, your caseworker may be able to identify foster children who are more likely to become available for adoption in the future. They cannot, however, make any guarantees that birth parent rights will be terminated if they are not already. Keep in mind that many foster children are already free for adoption, and you can keep checking the Adoption.com photo listing page in your state and others to locate adoptable kids that match your strengths and desires.
Who Can Become a Foster Parent?
You do not have to be married to become a foster parent. You do, however, need to be at least 21 years old, financially stable, and mature. If you are married, both you and your spouse will be required to become foster parents.
You need to be in good physical and mental health to become a foster parent. A medical check-up will be required. There also needs to be sufficient beds and bedrooms in your house for additional children.
During your foster care home study, you will be asked about your background and lifestyle. You need to be able to supply references, comply with a fingerprint background check, and discuss your parenting philosophy and disciplinary style.
When certifying foster parents, caseworkers are looking for flexible folks who will work well with birth parents, social workers, and teachers. They are seeking out kind, patient adults who have a good sense of humor. Remember that, as with all children, things won’t always go as planned. It is important to affirm each child’s unique strengths, as well as help them overcome their weaknesses. You should demonstrate good listening skills as so many foster children are eager for love and attention. A prospective foster parent should also be able to cope calmly with challenging behaviors.
In considering your readiness to become a foster parent, it is important to consider your support system. Do you have friends, family, or a faith community who will help you when situations become complicated? Will they open their hearts to you when you feel overwhelmed?
It also helps to clarify your goals when you are fostering. You will be met with uniquely challenging situations, and it is important to remember that the long-term health and well-being of your child are worth seeking out alternative solutions.
How to Become a Foster Parent in Texas
The first step toward becoming a foster parent in Texas is to attend an informational meeting. You will get statistics on the kinds of children who need to be fostered and will have the opportunity to ask questions. You can contact your local Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) office about finding a meeting in your area. If there is nothing local, they will give you the information you are looking for directly.
Next, you will attend 35 hours of competency-based Parent Resource Information Development Education (PRIDE) training. During this time, you will discuss your strengths in parenting and learn techniques for disciplining in thoughtful, creative ways.
The free training provides prospective foster parents with information on children in the child welfare system. It covers topics such as child attachment, loss and grief, discipline, behavior intervention, effects of abuse, effects of neglect, sexual abuse, working with the child welfare system, and the effects of fostering and adopting on the family.
Before becoming certified, you will also be required to attend a universal precautions meeting, a psychotropic medications meeting, and become certified in both first aid and infant/child/adult CPR.
A home study will provide your caseworker with information on your personal history, family interests and lifestyle, childcare experience, types of children that would best fit your home, and your strengths in meeting a child’s needs.
Finally, you will be matched with a child based on your requests as well as your caseworker’s assessment of the best fit for your home.
Texas has a dual-licensing program, so becoming qualified as a foster parent also certifies you to adopt from foster care. This helps streamline the process should you decide to become a permanent parent to the child or children you are fostering.
What Are the Financial Benefits of Becoming a Foster Parent?
Now that you know how to become a foster parent in Texas, you will want to consider the financial resources available to you.
Foster parents receive an average monthly stipend of $675 per child. These payments are designed to help meet the basic needs of the child such as food, clothing, and child care. Also, any children already receiving services, such as counseling, will continue to have those services covered. Children in foster care are also eligible for healthcare in the form of Medicaid.
If you decide to adopt your foster child, you may be shocked to learn how affordable it is. Private adoption through an adoption agency or lawyer can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000. By contrast, adoption from foster care is usually less than $3,600 in legal and home study fees.
The state of Texas will reimburse you up to $2,000 for the costs incurred when adopting a child from foster care. Children adopted from foster care are also available for healthcare benefits and a college tuition waiver. Youth adopted from foster care over the age of 14 who attend Texas state-supported institutions may have both their tuition and fees waived as long as they begin college before the age of 25.
Permanency Care Assistance (PCA) is also available if you decide to adopt your foster child. This is monthly assistance of up to $575 for a child in your care until he or she turns 18 as long as that child meets the state’s definition of special needs.
In Texas, a child with special needs is defined as a child who is over 6 years old (or over 2) and is a member of an ethnic or racial group who exits foster care at a slower rate than other racial or ethnic groups. A special needs child may also be part of a sibling group that needs to be adopted together or is being adopted so they can join siblings who have already been adopted. They may have a diagnosed physical, mental, emotional, or otherwise disabling condition as established by a qualified professional. A child who is already receiving benefits for a disability is also considered to have special needs.
The national adoption tax credit is also available to parents who adopt through foster care. The credit of $13,801 per child is money that you will be reimbursed for in the form of income taxes that you will not have to pay after the adoption is finalized. Qualifying expenses include legal fees, home study fees, birth mother expenses, and travel.
Now that you know how to become a foster parent in Texas, it is time to get the ball rolling! Call your local DFPS office and find out how you can get information about fostering a child today.
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.