Become a Foster Parent
Similar to getting your driver's license or getting licensed for a career credential, you need to be trained and ready before you start sharing your life with a child in foster care. Becoming a foster family in Virginia can vary widely on where you live and how you choose to become certified.
The Routes to Become a Foster Family:
LOCAL DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES
Virginia's foster care system is locally administered, meaning unlike most states, each locality has its own child welfare system.
While there is a state DSS based in Richmond that helps support the local systems, local DSS offices report to local government officials.
Generally speaking, local offices are responsible for recruiting, training, and supporting foster, adoptive and kinship families.
Licensed Child Placing Agencies work in partnership with local Departments of Social Services to recruit therapeutic foster families.
The groups may be either for-profit or non-profit organizations. While some cover the entire Commonwealth, many LCPAs are regional.
They provide extra training and support for families who take in children with a higher level of need.
*NOTE: Before you start training with a private provider, it is generally wise to ask your local DSS office which private providers they work with.
The Certification Process
Certification to become a foster parent requires:
An application and other various paperwork
Foster parent training
Home visits to assess if where you live meets housing requirements
*training, requirements, paperwork, and number of home visits will vary depending on the foster care agency you chose to partner with.
Your foster parent journey will play out differently depending on where you live, the kinds of children you are open to, and your current lifestyle.
Some counties have many children in care, others have very few. If you live in a smaller or less populated county, you may have to wait longer for a child to be placed in your care.
Some foster parents can say “my home is open to anyone!” That is wonderful, and a great need. But not everyone can say that. Please know that the greatest need is for flexible foster families. The more specific you are about what types of children you will allow into your home, the longer you may need to wait before receiving a call.
Foster care workers care deeply about finding the best “match” possible between a child and a foster family. Even if a family is licensed, trained, and open to taking in a child, there are other factors to consider. Perhaps you have pets and a potential child ends up being allergic. Perhaps your job has you travel most of the time, which could be hard emotionally on certain children. No one lifestyle is better than another, but keep these things in mind as you wait for a child to be placed in your care.
Within a year, only 50% of foster families still have a child in their home. Within 5 years, that number drops to 7%. A lack of social support is often the number one reason why families quit fostering. Click below for a resource to help you build a team of educated friends and family to "wrap around" you with meals, lawn care, babysitting, errands, and other needs.
already fostering and need support?