Foster parenting allows you and your family to provide a caring home for a young person when his or her family is no longer able. Foster parenting differs from adoptive parenting in that the young person is not permanently placed in your home. However, the journeys to adoptive and foster parenting are similar because placement agencies are looking for responsible, safe homes for a child.

While each state may be slightly different in relation to requirements to become a foster parent, most states mandate a foster parent become licensed or certified. A good place to start is on your state’s foster parenting page. This may be housed within the Department of Human Services, Department of Children’s Services, or other similar organization. The nonprofit organization AdoptUSKids also has a website that allows you to look up state-by-state contact information.

The National Foster Parent Association recommends calling several foster parenting agencies, which allows you to find the agency you are most comfortable working with and through. The agency may invite you to attend an informational meeting or schedule an in-home appointment with you, known as a Physical Standards Check. This is a common practice and allows the agency to take an initial look to determine if your home could be appropriate for foster care.

Next comes the paperwork. These official forms can include background checks, employment check, and other relevant information related to your work history. References are typically required during this application process.

The next step is a “home study.” This is where a social worker will ask many questions about your interests, your motivations, your family relationships, and personal childhood. This home study is not only evaluative in terms of granting you a foster parent license, but also in determining what child could be right for your home.

If you have passed through these often strenuous and time-consuming processes, most states require training. This includes not only parenting tips, but also possibly CPR and First Aid classes. You will also be taught expectations regarding how to work with the foster parenting agency. In total, you can expect this process to last around a year before obtaining your license, according to AdoptUSKids.

Your state or a fostering agency may make exceptions to this process if you already have a child in mind you would like to foster. This is true if you are the child’s teacher, neighbor, minister or another similar position.

While the process can be lengthy, it is designed to protect the foster child as well as ensure you have a clear understanding of how fostering can impact your life. Although surprises are seemingly always a part of this road, ideally you will emerge as prepared as possible.


  • Becoming a foster parent requires licensure and/or certification, a process that can take up to a year.
  • While each state is different, steps to licensure typically include a home visit, background checks and educational hours.
  • Processes may be quicker if you already have a child in mind or if you are the child’s teacher, neighbor, or a similar position.

Last reviewed by Eva Benmeleh, PhD. Review Date: September 2020


  1. AdoptUSKids: How to Foster.
  2. Becoming a Foster Parent.
  3. National Foster Parent Association. Becoming a Foster Parent.
  4. NPR. The Foster Care System: What Parents Wish We Knew.
  5. How to Become a Resource Parent.


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