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Foster parents come to the aid of children who need a safe, stable, loving place to stay.



Whether it’s for a few weeks, or months, or years, a foster home is a place where a child can find refuge at a time when it’s easy for them to feel lost and unloved.

Foster parenting is not easy. It takes hard work, dedication, and extreme patience. But experienced foster parents will tell you, when you foster hope for a child in need, your investment of love is returned tenfold.

If you’re drawn to participate in this exchange of love and support, this page is meant for you. We hope it can act as a guide for potential foster parents who want to understand the process, the requirements, the myths, and the commitments of becoming a foster parent.

Here’s what you’ll find on this page:


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Washington State Needs Foster Parents

The Quick Facts

  • 8,800 children were in out-of-home care as of January 2017
  • 50% of children in out-of-home care are in foster care
  • 6% of children in out-of-home care are in a group home
  • 62% of children exiting out-of-home care were reunited with their parents or primary caretakers
  • 51% of children entering out-of-home care in 2016 were under the age of 5
  • 15-18 months is the median length of stay for children entering out-of-home care


Beyond the Numbers:
A Foster Family’s Experience

Numbers tell us a lot about the status of foster care in Washington State, but they can never communicate the reality of what it’s like to actually foster hope for a child.

To do that, we have to look at the experiences and stories of foster care children, like Alexander.

Alexander was in foster care for a year before he moved in with Tess and David. The three-year-old had significant medical and developmental disabilities that overwhelmed his biological mother. But, she didn’t want to give up.

Tess and David hoped to adopt Alexander, but they also wanted a connection with his biological mother, so they began inviting her to Alexander’s baseball practices and games. Tess and David watched Alexander and his mother interact, and they saw that she connected with him in a way that no one else could. Over time, Tess and David’s bond with Alexander’s mother grew. Eventually, they began inviting her over for dinners and unsupervised visits.

Embraced by the support of his mother and his foster parents, Alexander began to improve. He started to express his emotions, something he had never been able to do, and his behavior improved at home and at school.

Then, a turning point. Tess and David had to move, which meant deciding about Alexander’s care. Though they had always intended to adopt, Tess and David saw that reunification was the best option for Alexander. So, Alexander returned home to a mother who was now prepared to care for her son. As for Tess and David, they’re still in touch, forever a part of Alexander’s extended family.


How Fostering Makes A Positive Impact On Children, Parents, And You

Fostering a child has positive impacts on everyone involved. Let’s take a look at three key outcomes that come from foster parenting. 

Reunification is the goal of foster care. When you foster reunification, you’re helping to put a family back together, which is an incredible gift. 

Foster Parent Experience
When you give, you gain. Being a foster parent is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. 

Child’s Experience
Having a safe, stable, loving home is critical for a child. With your help, a foster child can thrive and live a happier life.

Want to dive deeper into what it takes to become a foster parent? Click here to register for our FREE on-demand course.

Dispelling Myths About Foster Parenting

  • There’s A Type - Foster parents come from all backgrounds. You can be single, married, LGBTQ, conservative, liberal, old, or young. If you can support a child, you can be a foster parent.
  • You’re Alone - The foster parenting community is here to support you with whatever resources you need, every step of the way, from licensing to placement and beyond.
  • Biological Parents Are Bad - Just like foster parents, biological parents come from all kinds of backgrounds and situations. They’re not all criminals or drug addicts. The only thing they have in common is a need for help supporting their child.
  • Adoption Is Common - Reunification is the goal of foster care, and foster parents should be prepared to support families toward reuniting. While adoption does happen, it’s one of the least common outcomes of foster care.
  • You Need Experience - Not everyone who has a calling to be a parent has a child. Actual parenting experience is never required to be a foster parent. You just need to be loving, supportive, and ready to help a child in need.


The Basics Of Foster Parenting

What Is Foster Parenting? 

Foster parenting can take many forms. Variables on child age, placement term, and connections with biological parents vary greatly. Amidst that variety, there are some constants. Let’s take a look at the core principles behind all foster care in Washington State. 

  • Foster parents provide temporary care for a child or youth whose parents are unable to care for them for a number of reasons.
  • Foster parents are not a child’s legal parents.
  • Reunification is the goal of foster care, and foster parents support that goal.
  • Foster parents offer a safe and loving home for a child.
  • Foster parenting is not always easy. It’s often hard. It’s often frustrating. But it is always worth it.

Why Is Reunification the Goal? 

Reunification is when a foster child returns to live with their biological parents. For foster parents, reunification can be difficult, especially after they’ve bonded with their foster child. But, it’s important for all foster parents to understand that reunification is the goal in the majority of foster care situations.
The benefits of reunification include …

  • Better permanency outcomes for children, so they’re less likely to have to change homes again
  • Positive impact on the lives of biological parents, because taking care of their child means they’re more likely to lead healthier lives
  • Better development outcomes for children who can grow up at home with their biological parents

Foster parents should expect to actively participate in supporting reunification by …

  • Coordinating supervised visits with biological parents.
  • Encouraging a positive relationship between children and their parents.
  • Working with agencies to foster reunification however they can.

We understand reunification is hard, but it’s the best outcome for everyone involved. And, for foster parents, there are abundant resources to support you when your child transitions back to their home. 

The Typical (And Not-So-Typical) Foster Parent Experience

Typical - Josh and the Selembo Family

When Josh was born, he tested positive for drugs. Both his parents were addicts. At just three months old, he transitioned into foster care with the Selembo family. At the same time, Josh’s dad went into rehab. His mom did not. Throughout the next year, Josh’s dad fought his addiction and got better. He began visiting Josh and the Selembo family.

After a year, Josh’s dad was ready to bring him home. The Selembos continued to support the family, watching Josh on weekdays while his father was at work, and they continue to be close friends, helping each other whenever necessary to foster a safe, happy life for Josh.

Not-So-Typical Story - Carrie, Elyse, and the Ellis Family

The Ellis family took in Elyse when she was four years old. Her mother, Carrie, had given birth when she was just 14 and couldn’t care for Elyse. Then, came a surprise. Carrie entered the foster care system, and the Ellises welcomed her into their home.

With support from the Ellis family, Carrie got a job worked to afford a new car, and to afford a new apartment. Eventually, Elyse and Carrie left the Ellis household as a new, stable family of their own. And when Carrie got pregnant again, Mrs. Ellis acted as her coach, fostering continued support for Carrie, Elyse, and Elyse’s new baby brother.

Want to dive deeper into what it takes to become a foster parent? Click here to register for our FREE on-demand course.


Ready to Foster Someone Incredible?

We'll help you find a foster parent agency that's perfect for your family

let's get started!

Understanding The Commitment

Foster parents demonstrate their dedication to the foster care experience long before a child ever enters their home. The licensing process alone can take anywhere from 6–9 months. Once a child is placed, foster parents commit to regular communication with agencies, maintaining records, and managing home visits from agency staff. Let’s take a look at the commitments required.

Communication – Be prepared to communicate regularly with the child’s caseworker, birth parents, attorneys, and others involved in the child’s life.

Confidentiality – The desire to share your foster child’s accomplishments is understandable, but confidentiality prohibits posting about the child on Facebook or other social media.
Maintaining and Keeping Records - You must keep clear records of a child’s health, behavior, and…

Payments and Reimbursement - Foster parents get compensated for costs related to taking care of a child. But, payments for everyday needs are often given as reimbursements, not up-front allowances.

Uniform Foster Care Rate Child Care Assistance - An individual case’s needs do not determine foster care assistance rates. Children that require more support because of behavioral or medical needs do not equate to larger allowances for foster parents.

Ongoing Training - Renewing your license or receiving additional training may be required as you go through the foster care process. Even after licensing, you may need additional training.

Monthly Home Visits - Expect monthly visits to your home by licensing agencies or Child Placement Agencies (CPAs) to ensure the child is living in a safe and clean environment.

Patience - Children in foster care often come from homes where they were abused or neglected. It takes real dedication and a wealth of patience to be a foster parent. But, what you put in, you’ll get back tenfold when you see the difference you make in a child’s life.

Foster parents demonstrate their dedication to the foster care experience long before a child ever enters their home. The licensing process alone can take anywhere from 6–9 months. Once a child is placed, foster parents commit to regular communication with agencies, maintaining records, and managing home visits from agency staff. Let’s take a look at the commitments required.


State Or Private Agency?
Pros & Cons

State Agency


  • Greater ability to make decisions on your own because of less contact with licensing staff after licensing.
  • Freedom to take any placement you desire.


  • Respite is challenging to arrange. Respite is when an approved family watches your foster child so you can get a break.
  • No personal advocates. Once you are licensed, you are exposed to placement at the state level, without help from your licensing agency.

Private Agency


  • Your Child Placement Agency (CPA) acts as your personal advocate.
  • CPA’s arrange safe placements, take care of respite requests, and coordinate visits with biological parents
  • After-hours phone support is available 24/7
  • Quarterly in-home checks with CPA
  • Annual home health and safety visits


  • Not allowed to take any placement you desire
  • Regular checks can feel intrusive
  • Required to keep licensing file up to date

Navigating the Licensing Process

Typically, licensing takes about 6–9 months. While the process can vary slightly based on the agency you choose to work with, here are the core steps involved.

1) Attend an Information Meeting - Most agencies offer an information meeting to help kick off the process of getting licensed. At this meeting, you’ll get an overview of your agency’s licensing steps.

2) Complete an Application and Background Check - Applications help determine your foster care eligibility and include questions about your background, as well as your home.

3) Attend Caregiver Core Training (CCT) - Washington State requires CCT, a competency-based training, for all licensed foster parents.

4) Family Preparation and Home Study - During this time, you’ll receive training to help you prepare to be a foster parent, have your home certified for a foster home license, and complete your home study.

5) Child and Family Matching and Placement - Depending on your agency, this phase will help match you with a child and place them in your home.

6) Fostering Support - Private agencies offer continued support with in-home visits, ongoing training, and family support groups.

Click here to learn more about the process of becoming a foster parent in Washington State.


Common Pitfalls

Most foster parents who don’t make it through the licensing process typically drop out due to one of these common pitfalls.

Time - It takes a lot of time and patience to become a foster parent, and even more to actually be a foster parent. Plan on 6-9 months to get licensed. Once a child is placed, caring for them is just as time-consuming as having your own child.

Background - Part of the licensing process includes asking about a foster parent’s background and upbringing. Potential parents who aren’t comfortable answering these questions should think seriously about this commitment.

Personal Family - Foster parents are committed to their foster child. If you have plans to add to your family through adoption or getting pregnant, it may not be the right time for you to become a foster parent.

Home Setup - Children over the age of one must have their own bedroom separate from adults. Foster parents with studio apartments or one-bedroom apartments are limited to caring for infants.


How To Prepare

Preparing yourself and your family is key to success in becoming a foster parent. Here are a few things you can do to get started now:

  • Familiarize yourself with as many agencies as possible
  • Talk to each agency to find out what their requirements are
  • Choose an agency that’s a good fit for you
  • Meet with other foster parents to learn about their experiences
  • Attend meetings of foster families

Want to dive deeper into what it takes to become a foster parent? Click here to register for our FREE on-demand course.


Support Every Step of the Way

It’s critical for new foster parents to understand that they’re not alone. Washington State’s foster parent community offers a wealth of resources to help you through every aspect of foster parenting. Private agencies also provide 24/7 support to parents who need assistance.

The Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families also offers an array of online resources, including documents, videos, websites, and contact information on subjects including:

Behavioral Strategies - Learn techniques and strategies for working with children who have behavioral challenges.

Child Development - Find out how to nurture children’s minds and bodies as they get older.

Health and Safety - Resources on everything from immunizations to working with children who are at risk of running away.

Understanding the Unique Strengths and Needs of Native Children - Learn about the critical cultural connections that play a part in fostering children from Native American communities.

Parenting Children Exposed to Trauma - Information on the unique challenges of fostering children who have been victims of abuse or neglect.

Supportive Resources - Other supportive resources on a range of subjects, from fostering LGBTQ children to learning how to cope with loss as a foster parent whose foster child is reunified with their biological parents.


You Can Do This.
We Can Help.

The decision to become a foster parent in Washington State is one only you can make. It takes hard work, dedication, and patience to work through and with a system that isn’t perfect. But, for those that commit, a treasure is waiting.

Are you ready to start your journey? Make a request to be contacted by a Washington State agency now.

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