Foster Care Frequently Asked Questions
Foster care is a temporary living arrangement that provides children with a safe and loving home when there are no biological relatives who are currently equipped to do so. The primary goal of foster care is to support family reunification and restoration between children and their biological relatives. Placing children in nurturing foster homes creates an opportunity for relatives to receive the additional support and resources that they may need to better care for themselves and their children.
Children enter the foster care system due to a variety of circumstances that cause their living situation to be unsafe or unstable, not because they have done anything wrong. These circumstances can range from abuse and neglect to the death or arrest of a parent. Placement with a foster family usually only occurs if the Department of Social Services (DSS) cannot find any available relatives or close friends of the biological family to care for the child.
Every family situation is different. Some placements last only a few days while others last more than a year.
Foster parents must be able to provide a safe and nurturing temporary home for children in care. This home can be a house or an apartment, and it can be either owned or rented as long as it passes fire and DHEC inspections. They must be able to provide adequate care for an additional child, but there are no fixed income requirements. They may be married, single, divorced, or widowed, but they must be at least 21 years old and able to pass background checks, fingerprint screenings, and driving record checks. Medical reports and personal references are also needed.
At Thornwell, it is our hope that there is no cost associated with becoming a foster parent. The cost of background checks is always covered, and we work with donors to make sure one-time costs never prevent licensing. For example, some people need to purchase new fire extinguishers or smoke detectors to pass the fire inspection, and we offer financial support to ensure these requirements can be met.
Foster parents receive a monthly stiped for each child placed in their home. Additionally, children in foster care receive a clothing allowance and medical insurance provided by Medicaid.
Children in foster care usually have court-ordered family visitation about twice a month. Interactions with biological parents depend a lot on the specific case and foster parents’ personal preferences. Since the goal of foster care is reunification, having a relationship with biological parents can be extremely beneficial when the case allows. The DSS caseworker can advise on how to appropriately involve the biological parents in a child’s life.
Typically, foster children attend school based on where the foster home is zoned. In some cases, it may be advantageous for the child to remain enrolled at his or her initial school, but these circumstances are discussed during the selection process so that foster parents can make an informed decision regarding their school transportation commitment.
Foster parents can express their preferences about the age range, gender, and number of children they would like to welcome into their home. They are also free to decline any placement that is offered to them.
All information that is essential to a child’s well-being is provided to foster parents, including medical, educational, and behavioral information. A child’s case manager can answer any further questions that a foster parent might have.
Yes! It is very common for foster parents to balance employment with parenting children in their care.
Foster parents are invited to attend court hearings, but it is not mandatory that they do so. If they attend, they can share information regarding the child’s progress with the court.
Foster parents have physical custody of children in their care, but DSS remains legally responsible for them. This means that foster parents can use the “reasonable and prudent parent standard” to make decisions for children in their care regarding extracurricular, enrichment, cultural, and social activities. However, decisions regarding travel outside of the country, medical procedures, schooling, and interaction with biological family members are among those decisions that still require DSS authorization.
Thornwell provides several supports for our foster parents. We believe that a supportive community is vital to creating a thriving family of any kind. A Family Specialist is available 24/7 for advice and encouragement before, during, and after a placement. We are also intentional about creating a community among our foster parents through a private Facebook group and opportunities for in-person fellowship.
A Foster Care Recruiter educates people about the need for foster parents and the realities of foster care, hopefully guiding them towards a decision to begin the licensing process. They explain the process, answer questions, and share their personal experiences.
A Foster Care Family Specialist assists with the licensing of foster homes and provides family support in addition to case management services. They act as an advocate, and they can connect foster parents to resources, track down paperwork, and communicate with DSS.
While the licensing process depends on each individual family, Thornwell likes to have the process completed within three to six months.
The initial goal of foster care is always family reunification. When that is no longer possible, the goal shifts to adoption so that children still have the opportunity to belong to a thriving family, but every effort is made to reunify the biological family. Many foster parents do adopt at some point; however, they must be willing to do whatever is needed, including working with biological parents, to support reunification whenever possible.
If a prospective foster family has biological children, it is important to include them in the decision-making process. They both have an effect on and are affected by any foster children placed in their home, so open communication with biological children is just as essential as open communication with a spouse when fostering.
It is common for one spouse to be more interested in fostering than the other. Often, this can be resolved through communication and education. Prospective foster parents should openly discuss reasons they are unsure about fostering. Some of their concerns may be misconceptions or issues that can be resolved through more education or available supports. Other concerns may be more difficult for a prospective foster family to resolve. Sometimes a conversation with a foster care recruiter or friends who are fostering can help, but it is important for couples to remain understanding of one another’s perspective as they go through the decision-making process together.