Deciding on becoming a foster parent, no matter where you live, is a big decision and one I feel you should be informed as much as you can be. It is crucial that you understand the steps, regulations, and requirements for Kansas foster care. It is my hope that this article will help you do just that. Before we get too far into the details, let me remind you that this article is written from my own research and knowledge and does not constitute as legal advice. As such, I advise you to reach out to your local Kansas foster care agencies. Let’s start with the basics.
What is Kansas Foster Care?
Foster care in Kansas provides temporary living arrangements for a child when they are unable to live with their biological parents. This could be for several different reasons (more about that later). During their stay in foster care, each child will have child welfare professionals working to find the best placement for the child and create a plan for reunification with his/her biological parent(s). I also want to remind you that the ultimate goal of foster care is parent reunification; that is, being placed back with their biological parents. However, that is not always what is in the best interest of the child, and if it is not in the child’s best interest then the child becomes available for adoption through the foster care system.
Types of Kansas Foster Care.
There are a few different types of foster care that meet the unique needs of each child. They include relative/kinship care, unrelated kin, traditional foster care, specialist therapeutic or medical foster care, and respite care.
Relative or Kinship Care
Relative or kinship foster care is a placement arrangement for the child that is with a relative of the child. These relatives could include grandparents, uncles, aunts, tribe members, godparents, or others who are not the child’s parent but have a family relationship with the child. A lot of times, relative or kinship care is the first advantageous option to provide care for the child, as it could mean the least disruptive for the child’s life.
Non-Relative Kin Care
Non-relative kin foster care is a placement arrangement for a child that is with an unrelated kin. That is, typically a family friend, teacher, coach, church member, or other familiar acquaintance who is familiar with the child or his/her family. This, too, is a very favorable option when placing a child in foster care to ensure the child has the least amount of disruptions to his/her routine and life. It is important to note that they will still need to be licensed foster care providers. In many cases and states, they will allow you to receive a temporary license so that you may begin to care for the child immediately while you finish getting your full foster care license.
Traditional Kansas Foster Care
Traditional foster care is the placement of a child in your home that is not related or known to the foster care parents. This is your typical foster care arrangement, wherein the child is placed in a licensed foster care home. Foster parents are required to provide care and support until a permanent plan is put into place. I will discuss how to become a licensed foster parent later in the article.
Specialized, Therapeutic or Medical Foster Care
Many of the children who enter foster care have experienced traumatic experiences such as abuse, neglect, or other challenges. As such, many have significant medical, intellectual, behavioral, or developmental delays. These children are in need of specific, specialized care while in foster care. These foster care homes and caregivers will need to have specialized training in how to help the children properly.
Emergency Foster Care
Emergency foster care provides short-term care on an emergency basis. Children who enter the foster care system can do so at any given day or time. Which means, this could happen in the middle of the night and are in need of immediate/emergency care while they are found a more suitable placement arrangement can be made. This is usually a 72-hour stay with the emergency foster care provider.
Respite Foster Care
Respite care is providing a short-term placement arrangement for a child who is currently living with another foster parent. This is typically for an evening or weekend placement. Respite care is important because foster care parents need time to rest and recharge. This also allows people to see if foster care parenting is right for them, as it is usually short in duration.
What is the Process for Becoming Foster Care Licensed?
First and foremost, you will want to find a local agency to work with. This can be accomplished through an adoption agency or a local human services agency. The requirements to become foster care licensed vary from state to state. However, to become a foster parent in Kansas, they require the following:
- At least 21 years of age or older
- Be able to meet basic income guidelines
- Be free of any type of financial assistance, such as Section 8 Housing, food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or Medicaid
- Be able to provide adequate bedroom space that meets fire codes
- Have a separate bed for each child
- Have reliable transportation
- Participate in 30 hours of training
- Be able to agree to use non-physical discipline
- Undergo a background check for everyone in your household
Once you have decided on an agency to work with, make sure you check with them to verify what steps above need to be accomplished first and what their processes are. You will need to complete their application and follow through with their step-by-step process, whatever that may be.
The training you are required to participate in is called Trauma-Informed Parenting for Safety and Permanency-Model Approach for Partnerships in Parenting, or TIPS-MAPP. This training is required by the state of Kansas for all prospective foster parents. There is no charge to the training. The training is a 10-week course, which is led by professional and experienced foster parents. It consists of a three-hour meeting once a week. There may also be homework included in the training. One or more TIPS-MAPP leaders will also visit you and your family in your home at least twice. The goal of this training is to help you better understand the skills and knowledge that will be necessary for becoming foster parents. It may seem like a lot of time for training, but I urge you to stick with it and go into the training with an open mind. It really is in your best interest and the best interest of the children entering your home.
In addition to this training, all prospective foster parents are also required to be trained in first aid, CPR, medication administration, and universal precautions. Also, you will be responsible for completing 16 hours of training annually, eight hours for each foster parent. The training must be related to the children served in your home. You will also need to complete two hours of face-to-face training in addition to the eight hours for each parent.
You will also be required to provide the following:
- A minimum of three (3) individuals who have known you for at least one year that can be contacted as references for you. One of the three references may be a family member and the other two must be non-family members. They will receive a questionnaire to be completed and returned.
As a Kansas foster care parent, you also have the following expectations/responsibilities.
- You should have a knowledge of state and local laws, regulations, and codes pertaining to foster care.
- You are required to provide licensed child care, if needed.
- You are required to report any missing children.
- You are required to know where the child is at all times.
- You are required to provide care for the child when he/she is sick, suspended, or expelled from school/daycare.
- You should have knowledge of positive parenting and child development.
- You must provide supervision, protection, and care of all children placed in your home.
- You must be able to establish a working relationship with all involved in the child’s care, which includes their birth parents, school, community, court, and the like.
In addition to the above, foster parents should be able to provide the following:
- Daily living for the child—including adequate food
- Transportation for the child
- Attendance at school
- Doctor appointments
- Counseling, if needed
- Assist in their case plan
There is relatively no cost in becoming a Kansas foster care parent. However, foster care parents are reimbursed for each night the child is placed in your home. It is encouraged that you keep track of the days the child is in your home for your records. You will receive reimbursement from the first day the child is placed in your home but will not receive reimbursement for the day the child leaves. The guidelines for reimbursement are for things such as clothing, personal items, daycare, activity fees, enrollment fees, school fees, recreation activities, independent living, and more.
Foster care parents are also reimbursed for transporting the child to family visitation, case plans, and court hearings. This does not include day-to-day transportation.
Most children in the custody of the Department for Children and Families will be issued a medical card. This medical card covers medical and dental expenses for the child.
Once you have completed the necessary paperwork, background checks, and the training above, you will also need to complete the licensing through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. They will complete your home study.
Your home study will consist of paperwork and more importantly, a visit to your home. This will be to ensure the safety of the children entering your home. You will need to make sure your home meets all their requirements, i.e. enough beds and bedroom space for each child you intend to place in your home. You will also need to make sure your home has several safety features including smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, safety plans, outlet covers, cupboard locks, safes for all guns and ammunition (to be locked in separate locations), and more. Again, be sure to check with your worker to make sure you aren’t missing any requirements. Once all of that is accomplished and you are approved to become foster parents you will be ready to receive your first placement.
Who are the Children?
There are approximately 7,000+ children in Kansas foster care on any given day. They range anywhere from infants to 18 years of age. In states that have extended foster care, they could be up to the age of 21. As mentioned above, the ultimate goal of foster care is parent reunification. More than half of the children in foster care will be safely reunited with their parents. They come into the foster care system for a variety of reasons. However, as mentioned above, it is because they were no longer safe, for whatever reason, to be in the care and custody of their biological parents.
While there are the requirements listed above, anyone can be a foster parent. You do not have to have any sort of special education or work in a certain environment. As long as you can provide a stable, safe home these children need and you pass the requirements, you can become a foster parent. You can work outside of the home. You can be married or single. You can be male or female. You can be as old or as young as you want, as long as you are physically able to care for a child and as long as you are at least 21 years of age.
Remember, this is just a broad overview, and there is a lot of information contained herein. Make sure to check with your local agency/worker for specific information and how to proceed going forward. Making the decision to become foster parents is a big decision and can change the world for a child. Be sure to embrace the journey and know you are making a difference.