Over 9,000 Indiana children currently live in foster care. Foster kids are often transient, moving from temporary home to temporary home after experiencing neglect, abuse or simple bad luck. Many will age out of the foster care system before they ever find a permanent home.
The adults who open their hearts and homes to these children and become a foster parent in Indiana can literally change the course of a life – and possibly provide the first stable, supportive environment a child has ever had. While the path can be difficult, the outcomes can be amazing. If you’ve ever considered making this kind of a commitment, read on for some information on what this process involves to Become a Foster Parent in Indiana.
What are the requirements?
Foster parents are part of a vast, diverse community. In fact, people of all backgrounds are encouraged to apply. The one common link between all candidates is a true desire to make a positive difference in the life of a child.
Indiana guidelines from the Indiana Department of Child Services include:
- –Being at least 21 years of age
- –Passing a criminal history and background check that includes a fingerprint-based national history
- –Demonstrating financial stability
- –Owning or renting a home that meets physical safety standards
- –Successfully completing pre-service training requirements
- –Successfully completing First Aid, CPR and Universal Precautions training
- –Having positive personal reference statements
It’s important to note that foster parents do not necessarily need to be married. They may be single or cohabitating. A live-in relationship with a significant other or same-sex partner should be established for at least one year to demonstrate stability.
Other requirements can include medical and psychological screening, criminal background checks and a home inspection to ensure fire safety codes are being enforced. Foster parents in Indiana must complete ten hours of pre-service training and fifteen hours of continuing training on an annual basis as well.
Why do foster parents do it?
Shamia Bostic, Licensing Specialist for Benchmark Family Services says foster parents make the decision to reach out in this way because they see a real need to help children in difficult situations. “They want to give a child a loving home where they feel safe and secure,” she says. “They love children. They want to give back as they may have experienced these traumas themselves. They want to be a part of changing a child’s life.”
Sharon Pierce, President and CEO of The Villages, adds that foster parents often tell her they felt a calling to make the life of child better. “The value of changing a life is immeasurable, certainly not easy, but immeasurable, nonetheless,” she says. “Countless parents will also share that they love being a parent, and as their own children have grown they wanted to continue investing their time and efforts in creating a brighter future for abused and neglected children, one child at a time.”
While fostering is a rewarding experience for many families, it is important to begin the process with both eyes open. Pierce says becoming a foster parent is a “life-changing decision, just as the consideration to become a parent is life-changing, for both the parent and the child.”
Pierce urges potential foster parents to perform a self-assessment, asking questions such as “Am I ready and willing to sacrifice my time, my energy and my resources to invest in a foster child? Is my own family supportive of this vital role and the adaptations our family will need to make? Is the timing right to open our hearts and our home to a vulnerable child who is hungry for love, safety and healing?” If you can honestly answer “yes” to these questions, she says to go “full speed ahead.”
Bostic says that Indiana foster parents can become licensed through the state or through a private agency, sometimes referred to as an LCPA (Licensed Child Placing Agency). “Contact the agency or several agencies to get information about fostering,” she says. “The agency should provide information to prospective parent about requirements, foster parent training schedules and other important information.” Pierce stresses the importance of selecting an agency that will provide 24-hour support and sufficient training. A good place to start is by visiting the Indiana Department of Child Services Foster Care where you’ll find a comprehensive list of licensed agencies, complete foster parent qualifications and pertinent forms.
The decision to foster is a major one. Take the time to learn about the process and evaluate if you are truly ready for the obligation it requires. If you decide to make this commitment, the impact you have on a child’s life can be tremendous – as well as your foster son or daughter’s impact on you.