Parents dealing with the removal of their children to state-run foster care in a dependency investigation are often very concerned with the level of care their children receive and the competency of the caregivers selected. The training and qualifications of foster parents are especially important at this time in light of two recent news stories news that discuss issues that will require more foster parents to tackle ongoing problems. The first, from a Tampa Bay ABC news affiliate, looks at the impact of a rise in drug abuse in Hillsborough County and the stark increase of children in foster care as a result. The second news story, out of the PBS affiliate in Northern Florida, looks at the efforts of Senator Nancy Detert to enact legislation that will increase the age of foster care to 21. Given the great responsibility foster parents assume when they take in children following state removal from a parent or legal guardian’s home, it is important to know what is required to become a foster parent and what duties a foster parent must fulfill.Process to Become a Foster Parent
This discussion will focus on family foster homes, which are private residences that provide around-the-clock care to a dependent child. In order to become a foster parent in Florida, the caregiver must be licensed through the Department of Children and Families (DCF), with the entire process taking six to eight months to complete. The licensing process is coordinated through the local licensing agency, which is responsible for conducting the required background checks and family member assessments to determine if the home is suitable to care for foster children. Before entering the formal licensing process, the local agency will perform a pre-screening analysis to determine if family is in a place conducive to foster care giving. This pre-screening looks at criminal history and child abuse background checks, the ability of the family to safely care for a child, and the existence of sufficient financial resources. Assuming the pre-screening is passed, the basic process to receive a foster care license includes the following steps:
- complete 23-30 hours of training;
- pass a home inspection; and
- pass a home study.
In addition to a willingness and ability to care for a foster child, Florida law requires any caregiver to also learn about the child’s religious and ethnic background, special physical or mental needs and family relationships. Beyond these requirements, the foster parent must successfully discharge a list of specified duties. Some of these obligations include:
- actively participate in the development and implementation of the child’s case plan;
- complete trauma training to assist with the child’s special needs;
- support the child’s connection with the biological family and help facilitate communication with the child’s family;
- advocate for the child with the court, welfare agencies and community organizations;
- assist with procuring medical, dental and psychological care for the child;
- support the child’s education by participating in school activities and meetings; and
- for children between the ages of 13 and 17, ensure they learn independent living skills.
If your child is in foster care situation, and you have concerns about the family charged with providing your child’s care, speaking with a lawyer can inform you about how to address the situation and provide options that could lead to quicker reunification with your child. Stok Kon + Braverman, located in Fort Lauderdale and Boynton Beach, represent parents in child dependency cases and we are available to assist you. Contact us to schedule a consultation.