It’s exciting when the decision is made to become a foster care provider! The anticipation of adding to the family, even on a temporary basis, breeds a feeling of contentment and happiness, even amid trepidation at such a huge responsibility. And so the process begins. Training, home studies, background checks, etc. take time and focus.

Those who are capable of caring for more than one foster child will sometimes plan to fill every square inch of the house with children in need. While this is a charitable thought, it’s not practical, nor is it doable. There are laws and guidelines in place, specific to each state and created for the good of the children, that limit the number of children per home.

As stated, these laws vary by state. Some allow a maximum of just 5 children in the home, including the foster family’s own children. For large families, this may mean delaying foster care until older children leave home. As disappointing as that may be, when one understands that the guidelines are in place for the good of the foster children, it’s a little easier to swallow that pill. Some states have a maximum listed, but that maximum may change in order to allow sibling groups to remain together, or if there is a child who has a special tie to the foster family that is already at maximum capacity. Some states set a maximum on the number of children under a certain age, or the number of children with special needs. Some states will negotiate on the number of children if the foster home is extra spacious or has parents who are skilled in certain areas to better provide for a higher number of children.

In 2007, a state-by-state list was released that outlined the guidelines regarding the number of foster children allowed in homes. While those guidelines may have changed over the years, this sheet is easy to peruse and will give a basic idea to new or potential foster parents. It’s important to know what your state’s limitations are so that as you prepare your minds, your families, and your homes to begin this new adventure of service, you’ll be able to accurately plan.

The best course of action is to contact your state’s CPS and ask very specific questions.  Maybe keep a list on your fridge so that as questions arise while you’re planning to become a foster parent, you can jot them down and get all the answers with one phone call or one meeting.

But CONGRATULATIONS and a big THANK YOU for caring enough to take action. There are so many children who need what you have to offer, and truly, we can change the world by caring for one child at a time!