Frequently Asked Questions for Prospective Foster Parents
Q: How do I know if I’m ready to become a foster parent?
A: You are ready to be a foster parent if you are ready to accept a child into your family and give them the love, care and commitment that you would give your own child while respecting the child’s history, culture and family relationships. Foster parenting requires sensitivity, flexibility and selflessness. If you have these qualifications and you can safely care for a child, you are ready to start the process.
Q: How long does it take to become a licensed foster parent?
A: It can take about four to six months to complete the required training and investigative home study. A thorough assessment of your family dynamics will take place through interviews, home visits, inspections and through training program participation.
Q: I am getting older/elderly. Is this an issue?
A: No. The New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) does not discriminate based on age, gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. You will be asked to take a physical exam to assert that you are physically able to care for a child.
Q: I am/we are LGBTQ. Is this an issue?
A: No. CYFD does not discriminate based on age, gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. CYFD does not discriminate against individuals and families (married or not) who apply to become foster or adoptive parents.
Q: I am a single male/female. Is this an issue?
A: No. As long as you are over the age of 18 you can be single, married or cohabitating to be considered for foster parenting. All adults who reside within your home must be willing to participate in the full licensing process.
Q: Do my financial resources play an important role in me becoming a foster parent?
A: As part of the process, you will be asked to provide a financial statement. You should have sufficient financial resources so that you are able to provide care for a foster child without being reliant on the monthly reimbursement provided while children are placed in your care.
Q: What if I was convicted of a crime in the past?
A: Current or past criminal issues are assessed on a case-by-case basis. There are crimes, however, which are deemed as “automatic disqualifiers” which would prevent a person from becoming a licensed foster parent. These crimes include, but are not limited to, murder, rape, child abuse, and having been convicted of a serious felony. Individuals with substantiated allegations of abuse and/or neglect with CYFD or other child protective agencies are also assessed on a case-by-case basis. Some substantiations are automatic disqualifiers which will prevent a person from becoming a licensed foster parent. It is important to be completely honest with your placement worker regarding any past or present issues related to crimes. All adults (over the age of 18) living in the home will be required to undergo a federal background check, as well as a check of local police and sheriff’s department records.
Q: We have pets (dogs, cats, birds, etc.). Is this an issue?
A: No. However, any pets residing at the home should be in good health with documentation of current vaccinations, and have a temperament such that they will not be frightening or hazardous to foster children.
Q: I live in an apartment. Is this an issue?
A: No. It is okay to own or rent housing as long as you can provide ample bedroom space for a child. Foster children can share a bedroom with birth or other foster children of the same gender, as long as they have separate beds to sleep in. There are also minimum physical space requirements that must be met.
Q: Do children in foster care need individual bedrooms?
A: No. A child in foster care can share a room with your birth children or other children in the care of CYFD who are of the same sex. However, the foster child must have a bed of his or her own. A child in foster care over the age of 18 months may not share a bedroom with an adult. The child’s caseworker or your placement worker can help determine whether a child has any specific needs that would impact the sleeping arrangements.
Q: I have some health issues. Will that be a problem?
A: As part of the licensure process you will need to take a physical exam. The physician will be asked their opinion about your physical and emotional health as it pertains to being able to safely provide care for a foster child or foster children.
Q: I have a diagnosed mental health issue (depression, bi-polar, etc.) Is this an issue?
A: If you have a mental health issue or concern, as part of the assessment process, you may be asked to provide statements or reports from your past or current mental health provider stating their professional opinion as to whether or not this would preclude your ability to safely care for a foster child.
Q: Do I get money for being a foster parent?
A: As a foster parent you will receive a monthly reimbursement to help provide food, clothing, shelter and transportation for the foster children placed in your home. The reimbursement is based on the foster child’s age and need level.
Q: What if we can’t attend one or more of the available training dates?
A: If at all possible, you are encouraged to take all classes in your county of origin. If you have a conflict, please consult with your placement worker who will help you come up with an alternative arrangement if necessary.
Q: What types of children are in foster care?
A: Most children who come into CYFD custody, through no fault of their own, have gone through traumatic situations in their lives. Some of these children may have challenging and difficult behavioral issues. As part of a professional team, you will have the support and help from a variety of professionals and seasoned foster parents that can help you in managing potentially difficult behavioral issues with children.
Q: Will we have to work with or know the children’s biological family?
A: In most cases, yes. In fact, visits between birth parents and children are an essential part of the efforts to reunite families. Visits go a long way in helping the child work through the emotional trauma of being separated from his or her family. Each case is different and will be assessed on a case-by-case basis to determine whether or not it would be appropriate for the foster and biological family to work together. The child’s caseworker has the primary responsibility for planning visits and arranging supervision, if required.
Q: As a foster parent, can I still apply for other benefits (WIC, food stamps, etc.)?
A: Depending on your income, you may be eligible to receive other state benefits. We recommend that you contact your local Income Support Division office for more information or you can call the Income Support Division Customer Service Center at 1-800-283-4465. You can also visit http://www.hsd.state.nm.us/isd for more information.
Q: Do all foster children receive Medicaid?
A: Typically, yes. There are instances where children do not have Medicaid; however, all children will have medical coverage while in foster care.
Q: Can foster children go to church with us?
A: Yes, but if a child is of a different faith, he or she must be allowed to attend worship in that faith. The child’s birth parents still have the right to grant their permission for religious involvement even while their children are in a foster home.
Q: Can a foster child travel with their foster parents (vacations, etc.)?
A: In most cases, yes. It is important to wrap children into the full family experience, but if it involves traveling out of your county of residence or out-of-state travel, there must be proper advance approval by the child’s caseworker.
Q: As a foster parent, can I adopt a child I am providing care for?
A: Yes. However, the first goal is to reunite children in foster care with their biological families whenever possible. If a foster child who has been in your home for some time becomes available for adoption, you can discuss your interest in adopting him or her with the child’s caseworker.
Q: Won’t it be hard on us when the child is reunited with his or her birth family or is adopted?
A: Yes. That is, in fact, one of hardest parts of being a foster parent, but it can also be rewarding to know that a child has a solid home. You will certainly feel sad for a time. It’s only natural, just as it is natural for the child to want a family of his own. Many foster parents stay connected to children after they are returned to their biological family, are adopted and/or even after they become adults. It is important to remember that foster care is a way to build connections and positive experiences that will stay with a child no matter where he or she goes. This topic gets addressed in training to become licensed for foster care.
- To get started on your path to becoming a licensed foster parent, complete our easy online form.