Requirements to Becoming a Foster Parent
What does it mean to be a licensed foster home?
A licensed foster home means a home is state approved to provide care for children and meets basic standards of safety set by law and regulation. These standards reduce predictable risks to the health, safety and well-being of children in out-of-home care.
The goal of foster care is to provide a safe, stable, nurturing environment until the child is able to return home or until a permanent home is found for the child.
Licensed foster parents receive a monthly stipend as a reimbursement to help with the cost of caring for a child in care. This rate is established by the state legislature, and is based on how many nights a child is in your home, the age of the child and your geographic location.
What are the requirements for foster homes?
Licensing requirements are defined in Alaska statute and regulation. Foster homes must be in compliance with licensing standards, which address home environment, safety, and criminal background. There are some specific requirements you have to be able to meet.
Age: Must be at least age 21.
Health: The foster family must be physically and emotionally capable of caring for children, and have no alcohol or drug abuse problems.
Character references: The potential foster parent(s) must provide the agency with the names of four persons who may be contacted for references. The agency will seek statements from these individuals attesting to the applicant's moral character, mature judgment, ability to manage financial resources, and capacity for developing a meaningful relationship with children.
Criminal history record check: Must be able to pass a criminal background check and have no substantiated record of abusing or neglecting children. In some situations, a background variance may be granted.
Ability and Motivation: The agency will explore each applicant's ability and motivation to be a foster parent. Applicants must have willingness to cooperate with the agency in providing services needed and carrying out the foster care plan and case plan.
Safety standards: Have a home that can meet basic fire, safety and sanitary standards.
Space: Have enough room (and beds) in your home for a foster child to sleep, have privacy, and keep his or her belongings.
Checklist for a Licensed Foster Care Home
First Aid Kit
Fire extinguisher, smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector
Firearms are stored unloaded in a locked gun safe or other locked place that is not visible or accessible to children in care
Children should have own crib or bed
Space for child to sleep and keep his or her belongings.
Childproofing as age appropriate
Water test if on private well.
Water temperature does not exceed 120 degrees
Usable exits in children's sleeping areas.
If you have a stable home and solid parenting skills, you can become a foster parent.
The application and the licensing process
Becoming a foster parent requires filling out paperwork. Applicants must complete all of the forms necessary and complete a thorough background check.
The prospective foster home must be evaluated and determined to meet basic physical, health, and safety requirements. A licensing specialist will visit prospective foster parents to inspect the home for safety and collect detailed information about the applicants and other household members, including potential caregivers for the child. The home visit may last from 1/1/2 - 3 hours.
To apply to become a foster parent:
- Attend required orientation. See the orientation schedule at http://www.acrf.org/calendars.php. If your community does not have an onsite orientation, you may participate in a telephonic orientation or complete a web-based orientation.
- Call the local OCS field office to get an application packet, or download the application and forms located in the “Foster Care Forms, Brochures and Handbooks” link. Fill out the forms included in the packet;
- Sign and return the completed application. The application also asks for five personal references (one can be a relative) and for permission to complete a background check on all household members age 16 years and older.
- Get fingerprinted;
- A criminal background check will be run on household members age 16 and older;
- Participate in home visits. A licensing worker will visit your home to determine that basic safety standards are met; and
- Obtain required military permission if you reside on a military installation.
When a criminal history record of the foster parent or any other person age 16 and older who lives in the home reveals a charge or conviction of a barrier crime, the foster parent may request a variance by completing a background variance request application and providing requested supporting documentation.
The Office of Children’s Services must take all appropriate steps to protect the health and safety of the child or children in care, including removal from the home or denial of the application.
Meeting the Criminal Justice Clearance Requirement in Alaska for Foster Care
Questions and Answers
Why is Fingerprinting Necessary?
- To ensure the child’s care and safety in out-of-home care.
- To reduce predictable risk to the child.
- To verify the identity of the person being checked with information received.
Who Needs to be Fingerprinted?
- Unlicensed relative caregivers,
- Foster Homes and Foster Group Homes (All household members age 16 and older),
- Employees or volunteers who work with children and youth,
- Child Placement Agencies
- Prospective adoptive parents, and
- Prospective guardianship parents.
Where Can Fingerprinting be Done?
- Every OCS office has LiveScan equipment to fingerprint foster families for electronic submittal of fingerprints.
- Village Public Safety Officers (VPSOs) or village police departments.
What is the Cost?
- OCS will pay the cost of fingerprinting and the processing fee for applicants for foster home licensees and household members age 16 and older.
- A child placement agency’s foster parent may incur a cost for fingerprinting, or the placement agency may cover those costs.
Who Receives the Results?
- Results are received by the agency that submitted them and are confidential.
What if a Barrier Crime is Found?
- If a household member, age 16 or older, is found to have an existing barrier crime, a variance may be requested.
- The Department will review the request and make a recommendation to the Commissioner of the Department of Health & Social Services.
- The Commissioner will either approve or deny the variance request.
Where can I get more information?
What kind of training is involved in becoming a foster parent?
The Alaska Center for Resource Families offers a variety of educational opportunities, onsite and distance delivery programs, for families who are wishing to become foster parents, and on-going training to meet the State of Alaska requirement for foster parents. Currently, a one parent home must complete 10 hours of training annually. A two parent home must complete 15 hours annually. This can be split between each parent; however, each parent must receive a minimum of 5 hours.
Training helps the foster family to meet the needs of children, receive information on techniques with challenging behaviors, to understand the effects of abuse and neglect on children in care, and to understand the expectations of the agency.
Foster parents need preparation and training to be effective in their role. Objectives of the training for foster parents are:
- Learning what to expect and what services are available.
- Looking at one's own strengths and needs.
- Developing skills to understand a child's behavior.
- Learning about stages of child development.
- Understanding the importance of teamwork, such as working with the caseworker,the child's parents, schools, etc.
There are different methods of obtaining orientation and training, including self-study and web based training, all at no charge to you. Contact the Training Center at 1-800-478-7307 or online at www.acrf.org.
In addition, training can be obtained through other community services; however, an alternative training record form and documentation will need to be provided to the training center to receive credit.
Am I ready to become a foster parent?
Foster care affects your whole family. Talk over the decision with your family members.
- Are both spouses interested in caring for the children?
- How do the children feel about sharing space, toys, parents, and attention?
Foster care makes demands on all family members, including pets. Make sure it is a family decision.
"We received as much as we gave." ~ Bill, foster parent
For more information, contact the Alaska Center for Resource Families or your nearest Office of Children's Services. If you are a member of a Tribal or Native Corporation, contact the social services department. Some corporations have their own foster care programs and would welcome your interest in becoming a tribal foster home.
Alaska Center for Resource Families
815 Second Avenue Suite 101
Fairbanks, AK 99701
Office of Children's Services
PO Box 110630
Juneau, AK 99811-0630