According to the Office of Children and Family Services, foster homes are “certified” (the term used for non-relative homes) or “approved” (the term used for relatives) according to the same standards.
A home study and evaluation of the members of the foster family household or the relative’s family household must determine compliance with all of the following criteria for certification or approval:
- Age: Each foster parent must be over the age of 21.
- Health: Each member of the household of the foster family must be in good physical and mental health and free from communicable diseases. However, physical handicaps or illness of foster parents or members of their household must be in consideration only as they affect the ability to provide adequate care to foster children or may affect an individual child’s adjustment to the foster family. Cases must be evaluated on an individual basis with assistance of a medical consultant when indicated. A written report from a physician on the health of a family, including a complete physical examination of the applicant, must be filed with the agency initially and biennially thereafter. Additional medical reports must be furnished upon the request of either the agency worker or the foster parent.
- Employment: Employment of a foster parent outside the home must be permitted when there are suitable plans for the care and supervision of the child at all times, including after school and during the summer. Such plans must be made part of the foster family record and must receive prior agency approval, unless only one of the two foster parents is working outside the home.
- Marital Status: The marital status of an applicant may be a factor in determining whether or not a certification or approval will be granted only as it affects the ability to provide adequate care to foster children. Changes in marital status must be reported to the authorized agency; existing certificates or letters of approval may be revoked, and new certificates or letters of approval issued consistent with the best interests of the child.
- Character: Each applicant for certification or approval must be required to provide the agency with the names of three persons who may be contacted for references. The agency must seek signed statements from these individuals attesting to the applicant’s moral character, mature judgment, ability to manage financial resources, and capacity for developing a meaningful relationship with children, or interview the individuals in person.
- Ability and Motivation: The agency must explore each applicant’s ability to be a foster parent and must discuss the following topics:
- The reasons a person seeks to become a foster parent.
- The understanding of the foster parent role, including the responsibilities of foster parents in relation to the child, the agency, and the family.
- The person’s concerns and questions about foster care services.
- The person’s psychological readiness to assume responsibility for a child and his/her ability to provide for a child’s physical and emotional needs.
- The agency’s role and authority to supervise the placement.
- The attitudes that each person who would be sharing living accommodations with the child in foster care has about foster care and his/her concept of a foster child's role in the family.
- The awareness of the impact that foster care responsibilities have upon family life, relationships, and current lifestyle.
- The principles related to the development and discipline of children and the need of each child for guidance, a supportive relationship, appropriate stimulation, and the opportunity to identify with a parent or surrogate whose history reflects a value system that is socially constructive.
- A person’s self-assessment of his/her capacity to provide a child with a stable and meaningful relationship.