Twin Cedars: How to become a foster parent

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Question: I love children and think my family has a lot to offer a child in foster care. What is the process like to become a foster parent?

Answer: The decision to become a foster parent is something a parent should carefully consider, so the process is designed to help you fully understand how fostering might impact you and your family. It can also be described as a mutual selection process where you decide if fostering is right for your family and the foster care agency assesses whether your family can effectively provide foster care.

Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services, Inc. Therapeutic Foster Care (TFC) program is the only local private foster care agency licensed to approve foster homes and support foster parents throughout their fostering experience.

The first step is to express interest by calling 1-800-BELIEVE. You will be asked to leave your contact information and a staff person will call you.

Becoming a foster parent is a great way to make a difference, and calling us does not commit you to anything except receiving information. Once we hear from you, we will send you an information package in the mail and invite you to our next Orientation for Prospective Foster Parents.

Orientation gives you an opportunity to interact with the agency staff face to face, ask questions and learn about specific requirements. Detailed information is shared about the approval process and training requirements.

After you listen to the presentation and have all your questions answered, you will complete a form indicating whether you are interested in continuing the process and if so, you complete an application.

Twin Cedars employs recruiter specialists who are dedicated full time to assisting prospective foster parents with the approval process. The recruiter will review your application and schedule a brief home visit to meet you and your family and answer any questions you have about the process. Once you have had the initial home visit, you may sign up our pre-service training course.

Twin Cedars provides IMPACT training, which stands for initial interest, mutual selection, pre-service training, assessment, continuing development and teamwork. Twin Cedars’ Recruiters are certified IMPACT instructors and will help you explore how fostering may impact you and your family.

Following IMPACT, Twin Cedars has agency-specific training that includes: introduction to trauma, positive behavior supports, TFC policies and procedures and the independent contractor agreement.

Training occurs over the course of three to four weeks and the recruiter will make two additional visits to your home during this time. The second and third home visits include gathering your family history, interviewing your family members and checking your home for health and safety standards. You are provided a copy of our health and safety assessment tool and given time to make any needed corrections.

Each time you come to a training session, or have a home visit, the recruiter will assign you tasks or forms to complete that are required by state regulations. There are many forms and a few tasks that are time consuming, so we work hard not to overwhelm you with everything at once.

Some of these include providing a list of references, completing a Child Protective Services Screening form, having a criminal background check, medical exam, TB test and urine drug screen. It is our plan that by the time you complete the training process, we are ready to begin writing your home study.

The recruiter must submit all the documents gathered during the process to a state database called GA Score, along with a completed home study. The home study is a comprehensive and detailed report and is our assessment tool to approve you as a foster parent.

Twin Cedars must wait for the state’s final approval before we can place children in your home. Most home studies are reviewed within a week to 10 days of submission.

The entire process can be completed in about three months, which gives you plenty of time to consider if fostering is right for your family. Once you are officially approved, you should be prepared to take placements immediately!

Our state is experiencing a high volume of new children coming into foster care and there simply are not enough foster parents to meet the need. It is our hope that more people will believe in making a difference in the life of a child by becoming a foster parent, so we hope to hear from you soon!

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Twin Cedars staff

Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services may be contacted at 706-298-0050. Anyone who wants to submit a question to be answered in this column may send it to Twin Cedars, Attn: Mike Angstadt, PO Box 1526, LaGrange, GA 30241.