Having a nurturing and stable home is essential in a child’s development process. In 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 5,425 children entered the Massachusetts foster care system in need of temporary role models who could provide guidance as well as a safe home.
If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) offers guidelines to help you better understand the requirements of fostering a child.
First Steps to Become a Foster Parent
To become a foster parent, call (800) KIDS-508 or email DCF to start the process. After you express your interest, the agency will connect you with a licensed social worker who will deliver or send you a Registration of Interest form. The form should be completed and returned to DCF.
Requirements for Foster Parents
Applicants must meet certain requirements to become licensed foster parents. These requirements include:
- Being 18 years of age or older
- Renting or owning a home that complies with DCF’s family home standards
- Having a stable source of income
- Being willing to have a complete background check
- Completing a national fingerprint check
After passing the necessary background checks and physical standards check, which evaluates whether your home is safe and would offer privacy for a foster child, your family will be given a foster care application form. The application should be completed and returned to DCF.
MAPP Training for Prospective Foster Parents
After submitting a foster care application, all prospective foster parents must attend the Massachusetts Approach to Partnership in Parenting (MAPP) training program. These sessions, many of which are free, are offered throughout the Commonwealth and teach support strategies for foster parents. Training dates and times vary by location. Topics discussed in the MAPP program include:
- Positive discipline
- Child guidance
- Building self-esteem
Once you have completed the training, the department will follow up with references and home visits before approving your application and licensing your home to provide foster care to children.
Placement Process for Foster Children
DCF works hard to find the most suitable match between your family and a foster child. When a child is in need of a foster family, a Family Resource Unit employee will start the matching process by contacting you about taking in a child. The department provides you with a pre-placement checklist to help you determine whether or not a particular child is a good fit for your family before you make a final decision.
After you decide to accept a child into your home, you will be given and asked to sign a child placement agreement. The document is broken down into three parts:
- Information about the foster child, including the child’s legal status, placement reasons and history, education, medical, psychological needs, visitation schedule, and transportation needs.
- A summary of your responsibilities as a foster parent, as well as those of DCF and the social worker assigned to your case. This portion must be signed by the foster parent, the family resource worker, and the child’s social worker.
- A form to be completed every six months with your family resource worker to ensure the current copy of your child’s Service Plan and Medical Passport are up to date.
Fostering a child can be a rewarding experience, but you and your family should accept this role only after careful consideration.
If you have any questions about becoming a foster parent, call (800) KIDS-508.
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