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The top 10 frequently asked questions about becoming a foster parent

Posted November 25, 2019 5:00 a.m. EST

Interested potential foster parents must complete a 40-hour training program, plus a CPR class. Additionally, Boys and Girls Home instructor-led training classes meet twice a week for seven to eight weeks. After the training classes, applicants must submit their licensing paperwork to the state for final approval. (monkeybusinessimages/Big Stock Photo)

This article was written for our sponsor, Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina.

Think foster parenting might be a good fit for you? The following is a list of 10 frequently asked questions answered by three foster care experts: Anna Scharff, director of Family Foster Care for the Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina, and licensed foster care parents Crystal and Patrick Catherwood.

1. Am I the right fit to be a foster parent?

When asking yourself if you are the right person to become a foster parent, consider your motivation.

"A genuine, heartfelt desire by both spouses to help children who don't have security and stability in their home life is important," the Catherwoods said. "Also, an understanding that the ultimate goal of foster parenting is to provide a temporary home for children, until they can be reunited with their biological parents."

2. What's the process to become a foster parent?

"Interested potential foster parents must complete a 40-hour training program, plus a CPR class. Additionally, B&GH instructor-led training classes meet twice a week for seven to eight weeks. After the training classes, applicants must submit their licensing paperwork to the state for final approval," Scharff explained.

The Catherwoods said the training program helps to prepare parents to meet the special needs of foster children, some of whom have been abused and neglected.

"It also helps you to understand the different types of fostering opportunities that are available: short-term -- or respite -- care, long-term care, therapeutic care or fostering to adopt," they added.

3. What age children are available to foster?

Children, from the newborn stage to age 21 are available to foster.

"When foster children turn 18, they have the option of remaining in the program if they agree to comply with certain educational, employment or military service criteria," Scharff explained.

4. Can you work full time and foster?

Foster parents must have a source of income; unemployment benefits do not count as income.

Scharff said most foster parents do work and the Catherwoods added many foster families have two working spouses.

"In our family, we have split schedules – one works during the day, the other in the evening," they said.

5. What's the cost of fostering?

Foster parents receive a monthly stipend. The amount of the stipend depends on the age of the child. However, the stipend does not cover all expenses, things like diapers and clothes are typically paid for by the foster parents.

"The stipend amount also varies based on the foster child's home county. Stipends often range from $400 to $500 per child per month," the Catherwoods said. "While this helps to defer costs, stipends are not enough to cover all of a child's monthly needs, and potential foster parents should keep this in mind."

6. What support is available for foster parents and their children?

"The B&GH team is always available to answer questions and to connect you with resources such as doctors and therapists. Additional support services include Medicaid, the WIC Program [for children under the age of 5], and either free or reduced-price lunches for school-age children," suggested the Catherwoods.

7. Are there family implications?

Every family is different, but when considering the placement of a foster child, you should think about the child's age range and behavior, and how they will fit in your biological family. Scharff also said from an extended family perspective, ask yourself if everyone will be accepting of the foster child, regardless of things like race, religion or sexual orientation.

8. How important are flexibility and patience?

"Fostering requires a high degree of flexibility because it is a non-stop job that's in a constant state of flux. Fostering also requires a high degree of patience, especially since behavior modification takes considerable time to implement," Scharff said.

Added the Catherwoods, "If you don't already have a lot of patience, you'll develop it quickly. Fostering requires a lot of paperwork and recordkeeping on behalf of the Department of Social Services, to ensure that each foster child receives the appropriate care."

9. What are the "real world" pros and cons?

The Pros

"Getting the chance to help a child – to see the child grow and become self-confident," Scharff said.

"It's a rewarding process. We fostered a 4-year-old who was nonverbal when he arrived at our home. Now, he talks non-stop. He has grown academically and socially, and he's getting closer to where he should be developmentally," said the Catherwoods.

The Cons

"Foster parenting is one of the most difficult activities you can experience. It's a 24/7 job. You must love your foster children like your own, advocate for them and be prepared to let them go at any time for reunification with their biological parents," Scharff said.

Added the Catherwoods, "The time commitment is huge; it's more than for biological children because of the considerable documentation that is required."

10. How do I learn more?

If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, Scharff suggests attending a B&GH Open House event where you can talk with licensed foster parents who have first-hand experience with fostering.

This article was written for our sponsor, Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina.

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