How to Become a Foster Parent in New York

Four Parts:Deciding to Become a Foster ParentApplying to Be a Foster ParentUndergoing a Home Study EvaluationPreparing to Accept the Foster Child

Being a foster parent can be both challenging and rewarding for the foster family, as well as for children being fostered. A foster parent is someone who cares for children when the state has removed them from their natural families because of safety concerns or because the natural family voluntarily gives them up temporarily. Although the process for becoming a foster parent differs slightly depending on which county you live in, the general process is the same.

Part 1
Deciding to Become a Foster Parent

  1. Image titled Become a Foster Parent in New York Step 1
    Read up on the responsibilities. A foster parent provides nurturing care and a stable home for children who cannot currently live with their natural parents. Typically, children are removed because of abuse or neglect. Because the child probably suffers from trauma due to being separated from his or her home, a foster parent needs to provide patience, love, and affection in addition to food, shelter, and clothing.[1]
    • You will also need to make sure that children get the mental and physical health care that they need.
    • Foster parents must also accommodate children’s ability to visit parents or siblings.
    • A foster parent manual is available here for you to read. It provides a comprehensive discussion of foster parent responsibilities.
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    Feel comfortable letting people into your home. In addition to accepting a child into your home, you will need to be comfortable letting case workers inside as well. Case workers visit foster parent homes on a regular basis, to check up on the child and to assess the living quarters.
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    Understand the financial reimbursements. Aside from the satisfaction of knowing that you have provided a service to the community and the foster child, foster parents are also reimbursed for the cost of caring for the child. Counties set their own rates, which vary according to the child’s age and whether the placement was an emergency.[2]
    • Payment will also depend on whether your home is identified as providing Basic, Special, or Exceptional services, which is determined according to the needs of the child. A Basic home provides services for a child with no identified special or exceptional needs.[3]
    • To qualify as a Special or Exceptional home, you would need to undergo special training and participate in case conferences.[4]
    • The state also provides a clothing allowance and transportation costs for the child to visit other family members and for some appointments. Child care allowances may also be available, depending on the county, for foster parents who have to work outside the home.[5]
    • If the child is the right age, then he or she may be eligible for free or low-cost daycare or Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) benefits.
  4. Image titled Become a Foster Parent in New York Step 4
    Learn about the rights of a foster parent. Foster parents have many rights, including the ability to accept or reject the placement of a child in their home. Other rights include:[6]
    • Limit the number of children that can be placed with you.
    • Receive information on each child that is placed with you.
    • Expect regular visits from the caseworker.
    • Participate in regular conferences in the foster home to discuss the child’s plan every 90 days or less.
    • Receive training on how to meet the child’s needs.
    • Participate in Service Plan Reviews and Family Court permanency hearings on the child.
    • Have your personal privacy respected.
  5. Image titled Become a Foster Parent in New York Step 5
    Check if you satisfy requirements. Before applying to become a foster parent, you should check to see that you satisfy the criteria necessary for certification: [7]
    • Each foster parent must be over 21.
    • Each member of the foster household must be in good mental and physical health, free of communicable diseases. Physical handicaps or illnesses will not automatically exclude a foster family but will be part of an individualized assessment. The Department may require a written report or physical examination from a physician to help it decide if the foster parent can provide adequate foster care.
    • Employment of the foster parents outside the home must be approved by the agency, unless only one of two foster parents works outside the home.
    • Marital status may be a factor. Changes in marital status must be reported to the agency.
    • Ability and motivation. The agency will explore your ability and motivation to become a foster parent. Often, this will happen during a home assessment, when you can meet and talk with a Department representative.
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    Meet with other foster parents. The best way to understand what being a foster parent is like is to talk with other foster parents. If you do not know of any, then contact your local Department and ask if they can give you a referral of someone to talk to.

Part 2
Applying to Be a Foster Parent

  1. Image titled Become a Foster Parent in New York Step 7
    Contact the Department of Social Services. Begin the process of becoming a foster parent by contacting the Department of Social Services in your county. A listing of county offices can be found here.
    • Once you contact the Department, a representative will talk to you about fostering and explain the certification process.
    • To be certified, you will need to undergo: a State Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment check, a criminal history check, and a home study.
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    Get an SCR clearance. Another step in the certification process is to complete forms so that the Department can check whether you (or anyone 18 or older in the house) is the subject of an indicated child abuse maltreatment report filed with the State Central Register (SCR) in New York State.[8]
    • The Department will also check the registries of any state where you lived in the five years preceding the application.
    • The Department representative should give you the forms.
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    Undergo a criminal background check. As part of the application process, you will be required to undergo a criminal background check to see if you have any record. The Department will also need a set of fingerprints to conduct these checks.[9]
    • In some counties, your fingerprints will be taken at the local Department of Social Services office. In other counties, you will be directed to local law enforcement for either digital or ink-based prints.
    • If you have people who are frequent visitors to your home, then they may also be required to undergo a background check to ensure that they are safe to be around foster children.

Part 3
Undergoing a Home Study Evaluation

  1. Image titled Become a Foster Parent in New York Step 10
    Check that you have adequate space for the foster child. The Department representative will be checking to see that you have sufficient space. In particular, the representative will want to see the child’s sleeping quarters. New York has specific rules regarding sleeping quarters:
    • Separate bedrooms are required for children of the opposite sex older than seven unless the children are siblings or half-siblings.[10]
    • No more than three people may occupy any bedroom where children sleep (unless the children are siblings or half-siblings).[11]
    • No child over age three can sleep in the same room with an adult of the opposite sex. Nor can children sleep in the same bed as an adult. Each child must have a separate bed or crib.[12]
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    Assure that you have sufficient clean water. New York regulations require an adequate supply of safe water for drinking and other household use.
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    Clean up the house. The representative also wants to see that the home is sufficiently clean, so that physical well-being and comfort are assured. You should begin by storing piled up clothes, books, magazines, and other objects. Throw out any trash or unsafe food.
    • Clean the entire home, not just the child’s bedroom. The Department representative will want to see that the entire house is clean.
    • Pay particular attention to the bathroom, as the New York regulations specifically require that bathing and lavatory facilities be kept in a sanitary condition.[13] Scrub toilet bowls, showers, bathtubs, sinks, and tiles. Replace missing tiles and dirty shower curtains.
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    Address any unsafe conditions. Your home must also be safe. Check to make sure you don’t have exposed wires or easily accessible medication or cleaning supplies. If you do, address these problems.
    • Hire an electrician if necessary to shield exposed wires and hire a carpenter to fix rickety stairs, including broken bannisters.
    • Keep medicines in medicine cabinets and cleaning supplies or poisons out of the reach of children.
    • Store dangerous implements (like guns, knives, bows and arrows, etc.) with friends or family. You should also consider leaving them with family or friends since Department representatives will be coming to your home after the foster child is placed with you.
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    Check smoke alarms. You should have at least one working smoke detector.[14] Put in new batteries if you need to; the smoke alarm must work. Also make sure you have a fire extinguisher that is handy.
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    Meet with the representative. As part of the home study, you will meet with a representative and answer questions on a variety of topics so that the representative can get a sense of the applicants’ character, motivation, and willingness to cooperate with the agency.[15] Common topics of discussion include:
    • Your experience raising children.
    • Any experience with issues of child abuse or neglect.
    • Your approach to discipline.
    • Awareness of the potential impact of foster parenting on your family’s current lifestyle.
    • Awareness of the importance of providing a safe environment for children.
    • Your ability and interest in being a partner with the agency in carrying out permanency plans for the child.
    • Your self-assessment of your ability to provide children with a stable and meaningful relationship.
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    Request references. Part of the application will include providing three references from people who know you and can tell the Department about your character. The agency will seek signed statements from these people that attest to your judgment, moral character, and ability to establish meaningful relationships with children.[16]
    • The agency may also seek to interview your references in lieu of a signed statement.

Part 4
Preparing to Accept the Foster Child

  1. Image titled Become a Foster Parent in New York Step 17
    Take a training course. Potential foster families are required to undergo a training program prior to accepting any children into their home. These programs cover a variety of topics, including training on the documentation you must keep, the agency’s expectations, the benefits you and the child are eligible for, the types of behaviors to expect from the foster child, techniques for managing the child’s behavior, and other pertinent issues.[17]
    • Some foster parents are offered more specialized training, and some must refresh their training each year.
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    Wait for your foster child. Once all training and investigations are complete, you will be ready to receive your foster child. You probably won't have to wait long for your initial placement. The need for foster families in New York is great.
    • The length of stay will depend on circumstances, but could be as little as one night.
    • In rare circumstances, the child may remain in foster care and with the same foster family for greater than one year.
  3. Image titled Become a Foster Parent in New York Step 19
    Adopt. Know that adoption is an option if the natural parents are unable or unwilling to correct the issue that caused the foster child's removal. The home certification standards are the same for adoption as they are for foster care.[18]
    • If you become interested in adoption, you should meet with a family law attorney to discuss the process. Contact your state’s bar association, which should run a referral program.


  • The certification process for foster placement with kin (such as grandparents, aunts/uncles, or siblings) uses the same standards.[19]

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Categories: Adoption