Sep 27, 2016
Q&A with April Kiekintveld, LMSW, Recruitment and Retention Supervisor
Bethany Christian Services of Michigan, Holland
If you are thinking about becoming a foster parent, you likely have questions. The following are questions that many first-time foster parents ask.
I’m interested in becoming a foster parent. How do I get started?
Bethany offers an orientation class to learn about children in foster care, policies and procedures, and next steps and to become licensed. This three-hour class is purely informational—there’s no expectation of commitment. At the Holland, Michigan, office, we offer this class each month. Contact the Bethany branch near you to find out when the next class meets.
I went to the orientation, and I’m all in. What’s next?
You’ll begin the licensing process.
Do I pay for that?
No. The licensing process is free. Everyone in your family will need to complete a physical exam, so you may incur some cost for that if your insurance does not cover it.
What are the next steps?
- You’ll be assigned to a licensing specialist who will work with you on your application and fingerprinting.
- Your specialist will do approximately three home visits. They will assess your home (do you have enough beds for the children, are your rooms large enough, do you have smoke and carbon dioxide detectors, is your hot water heater set no higher than 120 degrees, etc.). They will also assess your family. They will speak with the children in your home and interview you about your childhood, schooling, employment, marriage, parenting style, etc.
- You will have some paperwork to complete, and your specialist will write an approximately 25-page report that summarizes the home visits.
- If approved, the report will be sent to the state for approval. In Michigan, that takes about two months.
- When you’re approved, your specialist will notify you, and you’ll receive your license by mail.
How long does the whole process take?
Your process shouldn’t take longer than six months. It depends on how quickly you move through your training. Some families get it done in three months. Then the state’s process can add another variable timetable—the total time from start to finish will vary from state to state.
How much training will I get?
You’ll begin with pre-licensing training that includes trauma, behavior management, discipline, and support. You’ll also complete additional online training before you can be licensed. *Each branch has a different training schedule with classes that are convenient for your schedule. Your local branch can provide specific information about training requirements.
How long do I wait until my first placement?
If you are licensed for a wide age range, expect a placement soon. A narrow age range (or if you are only accepting males or females) will take longer.
How long is the average placement?
The average placement is about nine months. One year after a child is removed from the home, there is a specific court hearing that takes place to determine the case plan for the child. The court’s goal is to find permanency, whether the child is reunified at home or eventually placed with an adoptive family. If it’s evident that parental rights will be terminated, the child will likely be placed in a long-term foster home where the family may have an intention to adopt.
Can I decline a placement?
Yes, we encourage you to only take placements were you feel comfortable doing so.
Where do I meet the child? Does someone bring them to my home?
This varies a little, but typically a social worker from Child Protective Services will bring the child to your home. You will be assigned a Bethany foster care specialist who will soon follow up with a visit.
What can I do to make this less awkward for the child?
The first few days can be awkward until you develop a routine. I encourage foster parents to go with whatever the child is doing. If they want to sleep with all of their clothes and belongings, let them do that. Or if they don’t want to eat, don’t force them to eat. Try to be relaxed, even on some of the house rules. Give them a chance to adjust to where they are. Being removed from their home and placed in foster care is traumatic—expect that the child is going to struggle. Don’t force conversation, but let them know they are safe, and you are available to help.
What should I have in the house to be ready for my first placement?
Kids typically come with a few things of their own, but maybe nothing. It would be good to have a few items of clothing on hand—pajamas, a few sets of socks and underwear. Have a toothbrush for them and a few items that are specifically theirs, such as a stuffed animal they can keep. Foster parents often go shopping with the kids the next day for other essentials.
What do I do if I need help?
During the day on a week day, call your foster care specialist. Outside of office hours, we have emergency staff on call 24 hours, seven days a week.
Visit www.bethany.org/foster-care to request information.
Note: Not all Bethany offices offer foster care services. Visit www.bethany.org/locations to learn what services Bethany provides in your area.