What is foster care?
Foster care is a protective service offered when a child must be removed from his/her home for a planned, temporary period of time. Foster families provide for the physical and emotional safety of the child in a stable home environment. While some of the children in care have been abused and neglected, others need alternative care while the family is experiencing a crisis, or because their safety is temporarily at risk at home. Family Support Services (FSS) and our partners provide a variety of services to parents and the child(ren) with the objective of resolving the problems that led to the removal of the child(ren) and getting them reunified.
Do I have to be married?
No. You can be single, dating, engaged, married, or divorced. However, if you and your partner live in the same home, you both must go through the licensing process.
Is it ok if I don't own my home?
Absolutely. You are not required to own your home. As long as you do not reside in HUD/Section 8 housing and have the required available space, your home should qualify.
What are the different types of foster care?
There are multiple types of foster homes in the community, with each specializing in its unique area of services provided for our children in care.
· Traditional: This is the most basic type of foster care licensing.
· Therapeutic: This is a clinical type placement with foster parents who are specifically trained to handle youth with mental, emotional, or behavioral needs that require more direct care. Therapeutic placements require additional training.
· Medical: This form of care is for children with medically complex conditions. These foster parents generally have a medical background and are able to provide specialized care. Medical placements require additional training.
· Safe Harbor: This home provides a foster parent with additional, specialized training to work with our sexually exploited youth. Additional training in Human Trafficking is required.
· Neighbor-to-Family: These homes specialize in caring for large sibling groups (4 or more children). Additional training is required to learn the special needs of these children.
· Short-term Respite Care: These provider homes serve as back-ups to our traditional foster parents in cases of emergency or pre-planned absence. Respite care is typically less than two weeks in length.
Are there financial requirements?
There are no specific minimum or maximum income requirements stated in Florida state statute.
FSS does verify your income and expenses, to ensure that the placement of our children will not create a financial hardship for your home and family, and so we can ensure the stipend received is appropriately utilized for the children's needs.
Does FSS license LGBT homes?
FSS does not discriminate based on race, religion, or orientation. Our licensed foster homes come from a diverse population within the community.
Do I have to drive?
It is a requirement for our foster parents to possess a valid Florida driver's license, a vehicle in good/working condition, and current auto insurance. Our children often can have numerous appointments to attend. We ask that our foster parents and the child's agency work in partnership to coordinate and share the responsibility of transportation.
How many bedrooms do I need?
We require a minimum of 2 bedrooms in the home. Please note, adults and children cannot share a bedroom. A bedroom is defined as a private area of space, with a door, window and closet.
I have pets, is that ok?
Foster homes may have pets in the home, however Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and certain species of exotic pets will prevent you from meeting licensing requirements.
I have an in-home daycare, is that ok?
Due to licensing requirements, you are not able to hold a dual-license from DCF for daycare and foster care at the same time.
Is my criminal history disqualifying?
Per state statute, all adults (18+) and youth (12-17) residing in the foster home must complete a background check through FSS. If you have been convicted of, pled guilty, or no contest to a felony relating to domestic violence, assault, drugs, gun charges, or child abuse/neglect, it is likely that you will not pass the background check. We do examine each charge individually and there is an appeal process available to continue pursuit of licensure.
I have had an abuse/neglect report in the past, does that disqualify me from foster care?
Historic abuse/neglect reports are not an automatic disqualification. We do examine and discuss on a case by case basis.
Can I adopt a child that I foster?
No two cases are the same. The primary goal in foster care is to reunify a child with their primary caregiver. We expect our foster parents to work in partnership with the child's Case Management Organization (CMO), the court and (if possible & appropriate) the biological family/caregiver to support this common goal.
There may be cases where reunification is NOT in the best interest of the child. In these cases, adoption may be possible, but there are no guarantees. Our objective is permanency for all children, whether it is reunification or adoption.
Will I receive any assistance?
Foster parents do receive a monthly stipend. This payment is reimbursement for the daily costs associated with caring for a child, such as housing, transportation, hygiene, clothing and food. This rate is pre-determined by the state, based on the child's age and individual needs.
All children in the custody of the state through foster care, receive Medicaid benefits. Children, aged 8 and below, qualify for a voucher to cover the expense of childcare. There are also free community services and events available to our foster parents & children.
Are there any citizenship requirements?
Documentation of legal Florida residency and proof of legal status in the United States is required.
What if I need a babysitter or have an emergency?
Our foster homes are required to maintain a back-up provider. This is someone that helps the foster parent by providing short term childcare in the foster parent's home. Back-up providers must pass background screenings and provide copy of driver's license and auto insurance.