Written by Washington Foster Team
“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” — Theodore Roosevelt
Every foster parent begins their journey by making a simple choice. Knowing that there are thousands of children without a safe, stable place to live, families commit to opening up their hearts to give those children a place to call home.
That choice — and your dedication to it — is by far the most important step in becoming a foster parent, but it is not the only one.
Washington State, like all states, has a thorough licensing process put in place to ensure that new foster parents have the tools and resources they need to support themselves and their foster child.
Here’s how it works.
Getting Licensed: A Step-By-Step Guide
By law, all foster parents are required to become licensed. The licensing process includes classes, training sessions, assessment interviews, and a home study. In most cases, getting licensed takes 6–9 months.
Each step in the licensing process is meant to help familiarize you with the foster care system and help you learn how to best support your foster child, regardless of their background.
The specifics of your licensing process will depend on the agency you choose to work with, but all include these five basic steps:
- Attend an informational meeting reviewing your agency’s licensing steps.
- Complete your application and background check to determine eligibility.
- Attend Caregiver Core Training (CCT), required by Washington State.
- Coordinate an assessment of your ability to care for a child and have your home certified.
- Family matching and placement in your home of a child who needs you.
As you’re talking with potential agencies to work with, ask about their licensing process to see which one sounds like the best fit for you. Keep in mind, the agency you use to get licensed is likely the same one that you’ll work with through child placement and beyond.
Where To Get Licensed For Foster Care In Washington
In Washington State, prospective foster parents have the option of getting licensed through a state or a private agency. There are many private agencies, so don’t hesitate to find the right one for you.
Every agency is slightly different. The biggest differences are found between state and private agencies. State agencies offer you greater freedom to make decisions on your own because of less-frequent contact with licensing staff. Yet, state-sponsored foster parents typically have less of a choice when it comes to taking or denying placement.
Private agencies usually offer more support by arranging safe placements, taking care of respite requests, and coordinating visits with biological parents. They also often feature after-hours phone support and perform regular in-home checks to make sure things are going well in your home.
What To Expect From The Process
Every potential foster parent should take time to talk to several agencies, existing foster parents, and agency staff to learn as much about the foster care process as possible. With that in mind, there are three areas that commonly stall someone’s journey to becoming a foster parent.
1) Home Setup
Expect a home study conducted by someone from your agency to determine if your home is adequate to house a foster child. You don’t need a big house, but it should be clean and safe. Most importantly, know that any foster child more than a year old requires their own room, separate from adults. If you live in a studio apartment, you may be restricted to fostering infants.
Many families think about entering the foster care system as a means of adopting a child. But, the reality is that the goal of foster care is to reunify children with their biological parents. Foster parents are expected to support that goal in a variety of ways, including regular communication with a child’s parents.
3) Hard Questions
As part of your home study and interview assessment during the licensing process, you will be asked questions about your childhood, any past trauma, and your experience with children. Some of these questions may be hard to answer, but they’re necessary to help caseworkers find the best placement for your family.
The process of getting licensed isn’t quick, and it’s not easy, but it’s a small sacrifice to make when you consider the incredible power that it grants you: the ability to forever change the life of a child for the better.
Get more in-depth answers about the licensing process, reunification, and what to expect as a new foster parent by downloading our free resource: The Essential Guide To Becoming A Foster Parent In Washington State.