Become a foster parent: Start here

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The Need for Foster Parents

In Oklahoma, there are over 9,000 children placed into out of home placement.  There are less than 2,000 foster homes.  This disparity means that children from your community are being placed outside of their home community, or in shelters.

Children who are placed outside their home community in one day lose their parents, family, school friends, teachers, coaches, and sense of connection to their community.  They frequently miss school so they can have visits, or they don’t see family because they need to be in school.  This sense of loss is compounded when they cannot be placed with their brothers and sisters due to no one having enough room.

Foster parents are needed to take children of all ages.  While 76% of children in care are under the age of 10, the hardest to find placement for are teenagers.

Foster parents who are willing to take sibling sets of 3 or more are greatly needed.  Oklahoma needs over 400 families willing to take large sibling groups, according to DHS.

The Bridge Concept

An important role for foster parents is to work with (a concept known as “bridging”) the child’s birth family towards the goal of reunification, and if that goal fails, to commit to raise/parenting the child.

The foster parent helps children to maintain permanent connections with their birth family, while acting as a mentor for that family.  Foster care is a service provided to the child’s entire family.  Foster families come from the same community as the child, are willing to accept and agree to visitation and other types of contact with siblings, relatives, and other important people in the child’s life.

Bridging with the family helps children to achieve permanence more quickly while enabling them to maintain connections with those who are important in their lives.  This ability to maintain connections, and achieve permanence more quickly reduces the level of trauma children in out of home care experience.

As a foster family, you may be asked to:

  1. Provide temporary care, love, and nurturance to children while serving as a mentor to their parent. This could include actively helping the parent improve on their parenting abilities.  The foster parent assists in helping the children transition home, to a legal guardianship, or adoption by another family, while maintaining the children’s connections to their kin, culture and community.
  2. Serve as the legal guardian for children while maintaining the children’s connection to kin, culture, and community.
  3. Adopt the children while maintaining the children’s connection to kin, culture and community.

Foster Parents Contact with the Birth Family

DHS will determine through assessment what level of contact the child should have with the birth family.  Every effort is made to ensure that contact between the child’s birth family and the child and foster parents is safe and positive.   When possible, foster parents are encouraged to supervise visitation with the children, assist with transportation around visitation, and model appropriate behavior for the birth parents.  This may mean allowing the child to use the phone to talk to their parent, while the foster parent listens in, or spending time with the child and their parents at a local park.  When appropriate, some foster parents have allowed the parents to come into their home, and help them with bedtime routines.  Foster parents do have input into what level of contact they are comfortable with, and are encouraged to share any concerns they have regarding this contact with their TFI worker and the DHS worker.

Types of Foster Parents

There are a number of different “types” of foster parents in Oklahoma.  These include:

  • Traditional Foster Parents
    • Traditional Foster families provide a safe and nurturing home and are committed to working with birth families to reunite children with parents. In the event that a child does not return home, foster families may become the permanent caregiver for the child either through adoption or permanent guardianship.  These foster parents are encouraged to “bridge the gap” with the birth parents to provide mentoring and support.  Learn more about the Bridge Concept.
  • Therapeutic Foster Parents (aka Treatment Parent)
    • Treatment Parents work with children with special psychological, social, behavioral, and emotional needs through providing behavioral modification treatment of the child in their home. Children in Therapeutic Foster Care can accept and respond to close relationships within a family setting yet have special needs which require more intensive or therapeutic services than are found in Bridge foster care.   Therapeutic foster homes require additional intensive training.  There must be at least one trained treatment parent available to the child 24 hours a day.  Treatment foster parents work with the agency’s therapist or community providers to ensure the child’s treatment needs are met.
  • Adoption Foster Parents
    • Adoptive Foster parents work only with children whose goal is adoption with the purpose of adopting the children placed into their home.
  • Tribal Foster Parents
    • Tribal Foster Parents work with Indian children and families in compliance with federal and state regulations.  Oklahoma tribes are responsible for certifying tribal foster homes.  Tribal parents certified by their Tribe may be dually Tribal and DHS certified when the tribe agrees.  Individuals may certify with their Tribe or with a private agency as they choose.  TFI makes every effort to place Tribal children in DHS custody who are referred to us for placement in our or their Tribe’s homes with Tribal parents according to the Tribe’s preference in accordance with federal and state regulations.
  • Kinship Foster Parents
    • Kinship Foster parents have a relationship already established with a child or sibling group of children in DHS custody. They become approved for that specific child/children.  Kinship parents who are willing to care for additional children may become certified as Traditional Foster Parents.
  • Specialized or DDSD Foster Parents
    • The children and adults in the care of the Developmental Disabilities Services Division (DDSD) have mental retardation and other developmental or physical disabilities. This means they will need support and care throughout their lives. Specialized Foster Parents are able to meet individuals needing services before taking them into their home to make sure they are compatible. Several visits routinely take place prior to a decision being made and an individual moving into the foster family’s home.
    • Specialized homes are approved through the Developmental Disabilities Services Division. Click here For more information.

Requirements to be a Traditional foster parent in Oklahoma

  • must have the ability to love, understand, care for and accept a child to whom they did not give birth
  • must be at least 21 years of age and preferably no more than 55 years older than the child considered for placement
  • have healthy relationships whether married, single, separated or divorced
  • must be in good physical and mental health to provide for the needs of the child
  • must  have sufficient income to meet current expenses
  • must be able to provide sufficient beds and bedrooms for  additional children
  • must submit to a search of all OKDHS records, including Child Welfare records
  • Applicants and each household member, 18 years of age or older, submits fingerprints for a state and national criminal history records search
  • must ensure that no household member has a prior conviction of any sexual offense
  • must have a working vehicle and a telephone (this can be a cell phone)
  • must be a legal resident
  • must attend 27 hrs. of Guiding Principles for Resource Parents (TFI provides much of this online)

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a resource family?

DHS sometimes uses this phrase to refer to foster parents, or individuals who are willing to care for children through foster care, legal guardianship or adoption.

What is a foster home?

A foster home is a temporary home for children needing out of home care due to abuse or neglect. Foster families provide a safe and nurturing home and are committed to working with birth families to reunite children with parents.  In the event that a child does not return home, foster families may become the permanent caregiver for the child either through adoption or permanent guardianship.

What is adoption?

Adoption is the permanent placement option for children who have been in foster care who cannot return to their parents’ home. Children are legally free for adoption only after the court has terminated the parental rights of the birth parents.

Who are the children in Oklahoma DHS care, in foster care or awaiting adoption?

Children in Oklahoma state care range in age from 0 to 21 and frequently are part of a sibling group that must remain together. Some of these children have physical, mental or emotional disabilities ranging from mild to severe.  More than half of the children in care are children of color. While over half are under the age of 12, there are many teenagers in care who need a foster home.

Do I have to be married to be a foster parent?

You do not have to be married. Applicants may be married, single, legally separated, or divorced.

Do I have to own my own home?

Foster parents do not have to own a home. In fact, many foster parents rent their place of residence. Foster families must have a stable and verifiable income.

What are the costs of becoming a foster care parent?

The home assessment and training is provided at no charge. There are costs incurred in obtaining a physical. There may be upfront costs in ensuring that your home is ready to care for a child.  In certain cases, TFI may be able to assist with some costs.

Do I have a choice in which children are placed into my home?

Families have the opportunity to determine their preference when making a decision regarding placement. TFI will tell you everything we know about a child when we contact you about making placement.  You may decline accepting placement of the child.  TFI is child focused and our goal is to find families who will meet the needs of the children in DHS custody.

What type of support services are provided after a child is placed in my home?

TFI provides a number of supports to ensure you have success with the children in your home.  Some of the ways that we may support you include regular contact with agency staff, respite (as appropriate), ongoing training, support groups, assistance in locating child care for foster children, home visits, team meetings, phone consultation, and a formal process for sharing your concerns.  DHS provides financial reimbursement towards the care of the children in your home, and pays for child care if the home’s caregivers work outside of the home or attend school a sufficient number of hours.

How do we get paid the financial reimbursement, and who does it come from?

Foster parents are paid by DHS, and the payment is made on a monthly basis to a Electonic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Card or via direct deposit to your checking or savings account.

What are the monthly reimbursement rates for Traditional foster care?

The daily and monthly rates begin at the below rates.  The daily rate may be increased if the child meets specific criteria identified by DHS.

Child’s age Daily rate Monthly rate
Birth through 5 years $15.17 $455.10
6 through 12 years $17.58 $527.40
13 years and older $19.76 $592.80

What are the age requirements to become a foster parent?

The minimum age is 21 and preferably no more than 55 years older than the child considered for placement.

What are the training requirements for becoming a Traditional foster parent?

  1. Must complete TFI Family Connections’ 6 hour Orientation training.
  2. Applicants must complete Guiding Principles for Oklahoma Bridge Resource Families, a 27 hr. pre-service training. TFI offers this through an “online” or DVD video version of 21 hours combined with 6 hours in person training.  The in person training can be done in a group session or one on one.
  3. All foster parents must complete 12 hours of continuing in-service training per calendar year on subjects that promote their skills and interests as providers.

What does the phrase “Bridge” mean when referring to foster care?

The concept of “bridging” refers to the foster parent being willing to “bridge the gap” with the birth parents to provide mentoring and support. This could include supervising visits, ensuring the birth parent is aware of doctor visits or school activities so they can attend (with the state’s approval) or even allowing the birth parent to come into your home and learn how to put the child to bed.  Each child’s situation is unique, and Bridging with the child’s family looks different for each child and foster home.   Your TFI worker and the child’s worker will help you identify what level of bridging is appropriate and safe for the child.  A more detailed explanation is available in our Bridge Concept section.

What is a Therapeutic foster home?

Therapeutic foster homes work with children with special behavioral needs through providing behavioral modification treatment of the child in their home.  The behaviors are such that the child cannot safely stay in a traditional foster home.  Therapeutic foster homes require additional intensive training than traditional foster homes.  There must be at least one trained treatment parent available to the child 24 hours a day.