How do I become a foster parent? Am I eligible to adopt? Who do I speak to about board payments? These are just a few questions that are asked throughout the country when it comes to opening your heart and home to foster children. Depending on the state where you reside, answers vary. There are, however, some similarities nationwide. If you live in New Jersey and want information on how to become a foster or adoptive parent or need access to resources for your foster family, Foster and Adoptive Family Services’ (FAFS) Information Line is the place to call.
FAFS’ Information Line: Licensing Process
According to AdoptUsKids, if you are preparing to foster you must provide letters of reference, complete background checks, meet the age minimum requirement in your state and verify that your income covers your expenses.
Each state requires you to complete pre-service training and fill out a home study application to proceed with the process of opening your home. For in-depth information on the process of becoming a foster or adoptive parent, visit the AdoptUsKids website.
Just as each state differs in the process of becoming a foster or adoptive parent, how to get started also varies. In Texas, for example, there is a statewide number dedicated to inquiries, but they also have three additional ways to begin. Residents can download an information packet from the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) website, attend a pre-scheduled information meeting that is open to the public or collaborate with a private adoption agency that works in partnership with DFPS.
In New Jersey, the first step in the process of becoming a foster or adoptive parent –also known as a licensed resource parent — is inquiring through the internet or calling the Information Line at Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS) at 800.222.0047. Your contact information is then sent to a Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) recruiter in your county who will invite you to an information session.
When you attend, and if you decide to proceed, you will fill out an application that will start the home study process. The home study process includes, but is not limited to, background and child abuse history checks, fingerprinting, an interview and assessment of all household members, references and statements of your finances. It takes five to six months to become a licensed resource parent in New Jersey, but it can vary depending on your relationship with the child. For example, the licensing process is not always as long for kinship caregivers.
FAFS’ Information Line: First Contact
The main function of the Information Line at FAFS is to answer questions and provide referrals to the appropriate staff at FAFS or DCP&P; referrals are also provided to other agencies and community based organizations based on the need of the caller. For example, an adoptive parent called in because his child was being extremely disrespectful to him, and he was unsure what actions to take. After assessing the situation, the parent was referred to DCP&P for assistance.
Approximately 85% percent of the calls received through the Information Line are people interested in becoming a foster or adoptive parent. There are also calls for advocacy services, subsidy information and training so foster parents can maintain their licenses.
Some calls don’t relate to foster care or adoption, but there is always a listening ear ready to help. Jessica Travis, the Information Line Associate at FAFS says, “I had a woman call the Information Line because she lost her dog. She honestly was not sure what to do. I asked her what county she was in and provided her with animal shelter contact information.”
In New Jersey, calls can range from rare instances that are not related to children at all, to reports of abuse or neglect. The Information Line does not handle reports or abuse or neglect first hand, but instructs callers to contact the Child Abuse and Neglect hotline at 877.NJ ABUSE (652.2873).
It’s important to utilize services like the Information Line in your state and throughout the country to assist with questions you have about foster care or adoption. These resources make the process of getting information much easier and result in a community that is informed about opening their hearts and homes.
FAFS’ Information Line: Reach Out to Find Out
If you live in New Jersey, you can call the Information Line toll free at 800.222.0047. You can also call 877.NJ FOSTER. To fill out an online inquiry to become a foster or adoptive parent, click here.
For more information on resources in your area, click here for the National Foster Care and Adoption Directory.