Children's Network of South Florida, LLC

“Building Strong Links for Children in Need”

Foster Parents

How to Get Started as a Foster Parent

If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, the first thing you need to do is attend an orientation.  To receive more information by mail, please fill out the attached form below.  Send this form via email to rvandemark@cnswfl.org or mail the form to Children's Network, Attn. Romina Vandemark at 2232 Altamont Ave. Ft. Myers, FL 33901 or call 1-855-933-KIDS (5437).

Foster Parent Inquiry Form

Why Should I Become A Foster Parent?

All of the children in the child welfare system have suffered from trauma-some form of abuse, neglect or abandonment by a parent.  Approximately half of these children remain in their homes under our careful supervision and the other half were unable to safely remain in their homes and were removed (by the Department of Children and Families) and placed with either relatives, family friends or in foster homes. Right here, in SWFL, including Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades Counties, there are approximately 500 children living in licensed foster homes.

Children in foster care range from newborn to age eighteen. They have all suffered through tramatic loss. These children live in your communities and come from diverse backgrounds. Whenever possible, we atttempt to place them to live with their own relatives or family friends; when that is not possible, the children are placed with a foster family.

Foster families provide abused children a temporary, safe place to live until they can be reunited with their birth families or, when that is not possible, and the courts have terminated their parent's rights, until an adoptive family is identified. The goal is for all children to have a permanent home within one year of coming into the child welfare system (varies according to each case).

The love, attention and support foster families provide serve as a foundation for a secure and successful life for thousands of children in Florida, at a time when they need it most.

Here in Southwest Florida we have approximately 250 wonderful foster families. But we need many more in our five-county region.  It is the goal of the Children's Network of Southwest Florida (CNSWFL) that one foster home only provides care for children from one biological family.

How Do I Become A Foster Parent

Becoming a foster parent is one of the most rewarding experiences for a family. Caring for children who have been abused and being a role model for the biological parents who are working to be reunified with their children is the ultimate public trust. Becoming a foster parent is a mutual selection process by which the family and the CNSWFL are working together to assess the strengths and needs of the family to determine if the foster parent program is a suitable match for both of us. The primary steps to becoming a foster parent are as follows:

  1. Call  1-855-933-KIDS (5437)
  2. If you are ready for the committment, then you must somplete a 30 Hour Pre-Service Parenting Program (once a week, 3 hours) called PRIDE
  3. All household members must pass an extensive criminal background screening
  4. The home must pass an environmental health inspection
  5. The home must be safe and have adequate space for additional children to reside
  6. The family must be financially stable and capable of providing for additional children
  7. The family must have reliable and safe transportation
  8. References provided must include: personal, professional, neighbor, family and school (for families with children living in the home)
  9. A licensing counselor will complete and in-depth assessment of the family called a "home study"

The process from the time of the inquiry until a family receives a license is difefrent depending on the circumstances but averages 3-5 months. If you are interested in learning more about the process, please call 1-855-933-KIDS (5437) or email rvandemark@cnswfl.org for an informational packet and schedule of classes in your area.

Frequenlty Asked Questions about Foster Care:

Who are the children of foster care?

· All foster children have suffered from trauma from abuse, neglect or abandonment
· Many of the children exhibit challenging behaviors
· The majority of children in care are part of sibling groups
· The children may have emotional problems
· The children are from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds
· Some will have special medical problems
· Others may present with developmental or physical disabilities
· The children range from newborn to 18 years old

Who are foster families?

Foster families are people who enjoy parenting and who are willing to share their homes, time, energy, and love with children who have special needs because of abuse or neglect. In Florida, you may be eligible for foster parenting if you:
· Are single, married, divorced, or widowed
· At least 21 years of age
· Consent to criminal and child abuse registry checks
· Are financially able to provide for your present needs and family emergencies
· Permit a health inspection of your home
· Have enough physical space in your home to accommodate children
· Attend required training sessions
· Are willing to meet with a licensing counselor through the Homestudy process to determine if fostering is appropriate for you and your family
· Have a willingness to work in partnership with everyone involved in the child's life to meet his/her needs
· Are dedicated to helping a child be reunified with his/her biological family or if that is not possible, with an identified adoptive family

Where do the children come from?

When a judge decides that a child has been a victim of abuse, neglect, abandonment, or death in a family, the courts decide that child must be temporarily separated from their families.  If there is no willing relative, these children must then be placed in a foster home.

How long will a child be in foster care?

A child's stay in foster care may be as short as overnight or as long as it takes to achieve a permanent plan for the child. The first and primary goal is always to reunite the family, when it is safe to do so. There are laws have dictated that a child's stay in foster care be no longer than one year, unless there are extenuating circumstances determined by the courts.

Can foster parents work outside the home?

Yes. Working families can be licensed as foster parents. Each child's needs must be evaluated individually. Some children will require a full time stay-at-home parent. Usually these are children who have therapeutic or medical challenges.

Is financial assistance available?

Yes. Foster families receive a stipend to help with the expenses while a child is in their home. The amount of the monthly board payment is determined by the age of the child. If a child is in a specialized foster home for medical or therapeutic needs, the compensation is higher, as their needs are greater. Children have medical, dental, and vision coverage while in foster care through Medicaid.  Foster parents are also eligible for mileage reimbursement when transporting children to medical appointments and foster care activities.

What are the emotional rewards of becoming a foster family?

Foster families can expect many rewards:
· A sense of accomplishment
· The chance to help children feel good about themselves
· Pride in doing a meaningful and important job
· Challenging experiences
· The opportunity to meet and work with new people
· A chance to use special talents and knowledge
· The opportunity to make a lifetime of difference in a short time

If you would like to make a difference in the life of a child, please call 1-855-933-KIDS (5437) !!

Already a Foster Parent??

Support Materials/Resource Links for Foster Parents:

QPI (Quality Parenting Initiative)

Parenting for Success: Positive Behavioral Support/Training for Foster Parents

Information on Psychotropic Medication Requirements for Caregivers

Health and Well Being Resource

Florida Juvenile Handbook 2007

Foster Parenting Forms: Click to View and Print